Australian rules football in the Middle East

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Australian rules football in the Middle East describes the minority sport of Australian rules football as it is watched and played in the Middle East region.

The sport is played at various levels, mainly by expatriate Australians. The main cup competition played in the area is the Dubai 9s, although a regional league under the name AFL Middle East which commenced in October 2008, with the inaugural 2008/09 premiers being the Dubai Heat. The AFLME initially featured six clubs, three in Dubai and one each from Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Doha.

Australian football is not known as a spectator sport in the Middle East. The first Australian Football League exhibition match was played in the United Emirates in 2008. The only matches broadcast are AFL matches (particularly the AFL Grand Final) on satellite television in some countries through the Australia Network and on cable television in Israel.

Bahrain[edit]

The Bahrain Blues were created in 2009, making their debut at the Dubai 9s tournament in that year. They will enter the AFL Middle East as the league's seventh club for the season starting in October 2009.[1]

Iraq[edit]

Servicemen, mostly Australians in Iraq played a game on ANZAC Day in 2008 in the colours of Essendon Bombers and Collingwood Magpies to celebrate the The ANZAC Day clash.

Israel[edit]

Peres Peace team at the 2008 International Cup

Australian Rules in Israel has been played sporadically since at least 1995, when a group of around 20 players began regular social matches in Tel Aviv, although most of the players were based in Jerusalem. By 2005 the community was still playing with around 70 players involved and discussion about creating a four-team league with sides from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and various youth programs. The majority of the playing base are members of the Jewish community in Melbourne who have emigrated to Israel.[2]

A side representing Israel competed in both years of the Australian Football Multicultural Cup, winning the 2004 competition.

A team composed of Australian Jews resident in London competed as Israel in the 2005 EU Cup.

Highlights of the AFL Grand Final have been shown on Fox Sports Israel.

Israel and Palestine[edit]

The formation of a composite team of Israeli and Palestinian players to participate in the 2008 Australian Football International Cup was suggested by members of the Australian Jewish community in late 2007.[3] This team would be composed mainly of basketball and soccer players, trained from scratch in the first half of 2008. Backing the plan is the Peres Center for Peace, as well as board members of AFL clubs, including Australian Jewish businessman and Carlton Football Club president Dick Pratt.

In early 2008 there was initially around 75 players in training for the team, which was cut back to around 30 for the squad to attend the International Cup. Match-day coach for the team at the tournament was former player Robert DiPierdomenico.

Lebanon[edit]

Australian Rules in Lebanon was first played around 2003 and 2004 in an attempt to introduce the sport into that country by members of the Lebanese community resident in Melbourne,[4] this competition (based in Tripoli) has since gone into recess and there is no Australian rules currently played in Lebanon.

A team representing the Melbourne Lebanese community also competed at the Australian Football Multicultural Cup in both 2004, 2005 and 2010.

Oman[edit]

A group of players from Oman appeared at the 2007 Dubai 9s. The Dubai Dingos followed the Dubai 9s by scheduling a match against the Omani side, which was partly composed of Gaelic football converts.[5] In 2008, the Muscat Magpies were formed as the country's first formal club. The Magpies compete in the upcoming AFL Middle East.[6]

Qatar[edit]

Doha Kangaroos at the 2007 Dubai 9s

An Australian rules football club nicknamed the Kangaroos was founded in Doha, Qatar in early 2007, with their first appearance being at that year's Dubai 9s tournament. The Squad is made up of expatriate Australians.[7]

The Doha Kangaroos were a founding member of the AFL Middle East.

United Arab Emirates[edit]

Australian Rules in the United Arab Emirates has been played since 2006, with the creation of a club in Dubai known as the Dubai Dingoes.[8] In addition to the senior team, there is junior football held weekly. The club is mainly composed of expatriate Australians as well as Irish from the local gaelic football club. The Dingoes held a 9-a-side international tournament in early 2007, also featuring teams from Abu Dhabi, Oman and Qatar.[9]

A second and more successful club called the Dubai Heat was created as of 2007.

A team mainly drawn from the Dubai Heat, but also with some players from the Dubai Dingoes, represented the UAE at the 2007 Asian Australian Football Championships. In 2008 Dubai Heat entered another team in the Asian championships and successfully took the title beating the Singapore Wombats.

In February 2008, the first AFL match in the United Arab Emirates was held at the Ghantoot Polo and Racing Club in Abu Dhabi between the Adelaide Crows and the Collingwood Magpies. It was one of few official NAB Cup matches played outside of Australia and the game attracted a sell-out crowd of 6,102 using a makeshift field and grandstand and was televised free-to-air in Australia.[10] The curtain raiser for the AFL match was played between the Dubai Dingos and Dubai Heat.

The Abu Dhabi Falcons and Dubai Dragons were formed in 2008 as the UAE's third and fourth clubs.

Middle Eastern performance at International Cup[edit]

Flag Nation Rep team 2002 2005 2008 2011
IsraelState of Palestine Israel-Palestinian Territories Peres Team for Peace - - 13th 3rd*
  • * Competed in Division 2

References[edit]