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Four teams, but in two leagues - footy in Kansai, Japan

  • Tuesday, February 28 2006 @ 02:39 pm ACDT
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The Osaka Dingoes were founded a couple of years ago as the first Aussie Rules team in Japan's second largest city. To play matches, their squad spawned a second team, the Kansai Kangaroos (named after Osaka's province). This continued until late last year, when the Dingoes and Kangaroos went their separate ways - the Dingoes continuing as the Japan Osaka AFL with new squad the Kobe Blues, and the Kangaroos with their new league dubbed the AFL Kansai Japan, together with the expansion Kyoto Kockatwos.

The Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto conurbation is basically three main cities sprawled into each other, home to over 17 million people. Among these 17 million, there are somewhere around 50 regular mens' Australian rules footballers - split into two camps. Although the two camps will not play against each other this year, both have scheduled an internal club season and a match against the Tokyo Goannas on the 26th of March in Osaka.

Osaka Dingoes and Kobe Blues

The Osaka club's 2006 season began on January 29, with the first 11-a-side mens' match between the Dingoes and the Kobe Blues, the Dingoes prevailing 79-58. The Osaka 'Rising Sun Series' between the Osaka women's and junior teams also started that day. The club will play another four local/rising sun rounds between now and September, with a number of matches against non-Kansai opposition in the intervening weeks.

March 26 will see the Dingoes take on Tokyo Australia expat side the Goannas for the Ebbesan Cup, in May they host the Tokyo University Samurai for the Japan-Australia Cup, then in June they are hoping to host a team from Australia, as well as attending the Narita Cup in Tokyo. In August they will take on the new Tokyo club Eastern Hawks and to round out the year, they will compete in the JAFL Tokyo Grand Final curtain raiser.

The Osaka club are also hoping that they can create a university-league structure similar to the one which has helped the Tokyo footballing community develop local players to the extent of the squad members who tour Australia each year.

Kinki Kangaroos and Kyoto Kockatwos (plus potentials in Nagoya and Shikoku)

The AFLKJ league has kicked off their league late in 2005 with two teams - Kyoto and Kinki, with around 20 regular players split between the two squads. The organisation, headed by a former trainer of the All-Japan Samurais Andrew Carne, is separate to the Japan AFL, although they have scheduled a match against the Tokyo Goannas on March 26th.

Nagoya is between Tokyo and Osaka and a number of Australians and Japanese have tried to found a team there for some time. While there is no actual club as yet, a group of interested parties have put themselves together to try and finally create a stable club in the city, with the Redbacks as their logo.

Shikoku is the smallest of the main four islands of Japan, a short trip across the water from Osaka and Kobe. The Shikoku Sharks have made an appearance on the AFLKJ website, but the club's status appears strictly to be in formative stages, online but not yet onfield. There have been interested people on the island for some time however, so hopefully this can be the start of a genuine footy presence.