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25.03.2009 Football News

Football unlike Ghana has seen before

By Daily Guide

Both the ball and pitch are an oval shape, the star players are unheard of and the goals are made from 2 large and 2 smaller posts, but it's still called football and the kids of Old Town, Zongo, Akim Oda in the Eastern Region have had a taste of Aussie Rules and they are fascinated.

The area is one of the poorest in Ghana; some families cannot afford to buy school uniforms for their children and the poor drainage system is evident upon entering.

The children of Uthmanu Bun Ahfan Islamic School were able to brush to one side their unfortunate circumstances last Thursday and learn a new game when their school was gifted three Australian Rules football's (footy's), donated by the top flight Western Bulldogs Football Club of Australia.  

The teachers examined the odd shaped ball and asked many questions including 'is this like rugby?' and 'it looks like an American football, is it like that?'  

It is understandable to make those comparisons but Australian Rules Football is a completely unique game that was discovered more than 150 years ago and has been a dominant presence on the Australian sporting calendar since.

For the purpose of demonstration the Junior Secondary School (JSS) boys put their hand up and took to the game like they had been playing it all of their lives. It is often said that Africans have innate footballing ability and the oval ball was no exception.  Once put in the hands of those willing to give it a try, their competitive drive and natural skills took over.

A 10-minute kicking drill where the students were taught how to kick and mark (catch) was all it took before the JSS boys were flying through the air and taking marks and then kicking the ball with an accuracy befitting a lifelong player.

Australian footy is famous for making the impossible possible due to the odd shape of the ball. When the ball bounces end on end it can go anywhere but when a player can preempt which way it will bounce they prove an ability to read the play, which is a fundamental skill for the elite professionals.  

The JSS boys after only 15 minutes of practice were able to scoop the ball up having read which way it would bounce and run on to kick it to their friends standing opposite.  This instinctive ability would have scouts in Australia licking their lips.

Although the only professional competition, the Australian Football League (AFL) is in Australia, there are several international players plying their trade.  With the new season due to kick off this Thursday there will be players from Ireland, Canada, England, Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and Brazil running out for their respective teams.  

An International rookie system has been of great success allowing teams to bring international players that have shown a penchant for the game into their squad and develop them.  

An African import has yet to be found but there is no doubt that the AFL will be a much better competition with some Ghanaian flare, a dream that with time can become a reality.

By Kate West

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