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From tea stall to Aussie Rules footy - a life changing experience

Mumbai kids playing footy in Shivaji Park Source: India Unbound

Sumesh and Saurabh say that playing Ausie Rules has been a life changing experience for many young socio-economically disadvantaged kids in India.

During April in India, Reclink Mumbai Footy Cup - a two-day Australian Rules Football competition is held annually.

Yes, Aussie Rules in India!

Since 2008, Aussie Rules, the unique Australian sport, comprising of two 18-a-side teams has been slowly making inroads to India.

Secretary General of the Australian Rules Football Association of India (AFL India), Sudip Chakraborty says that the success of the West Bengal State Tournament has demonstrated the growing passion for the game in India.

In Reclink Mumbai Footy Cup, 8 teams of 150 young players from Mumbai come together to play Aussie Rules Football.

Reclink Mumbai is basically a partnership between not for profit Reclink Australia and travel company - India Unbound.

This competition was originally initiated by Lincoln Harris of India Unbound.

Lincoln and his team provide regular training throughout the year to a group of passionate and diverse young guys in Mumbai.

“We have also been privileged to have the interest and support of Reclink Australia, through connections to that wonderful non-profit organization we have in Australia,” says Lincoln.

With the Aussie Rules season underway in Victoria, Australia, Sumesh Sawant and Saurabh Bhanderkar, two players from Mumbai team are visiting Melbourne to raise awareness about possibilities and problems of Aussie Rules in India.

They also played a match in the Reclink Australia football league on Wednesday 6 July at Victoria Road Reserve, Hawthorn East.

Before joining the team, 22-year-old Sumesh was a tea seller.

As a 16-year-old in Mumbai, Sumesh met Lincoln and is now working as the Reclink Mumbai coordinator.

Saurabh’s introduction to Aussie Rules is slightly different!

As a kid Saurabh was obese but with sheer determination he grew up to be a fitness coach and sports enthusiast.

One day, while walking across a park in Mumbai, Saurabh saw some guys playing Aussie Rules and it took his attention.

Saurabh says he always aspired to have a career in sports and recreation.

Today, he is the Reclink Mumbai development manager.

Sumesh and Saurabh say that working with India Unbound and Reclink Australia has been a life changing experience for many young players.

Aussie Rules has given them a chance to support the development of Aussie Rules amongst the socio-economically disadvantaged kids in India.

To know more about Aussie Rules journey and Sumesh and Saurabh’s experience and their role in developing footy teams and programs in India, listen to Amit Sarwal’s conversation with them.