My introduction to the Australian culture progressed another step: last night I was invited to go and see a game of Footy: a mixture of soccer and rugby, played on a round filed and watched by a sizable part of the Australian populations… well, at least the ones living in Melbourne. This city alone is home to 10 of the 18 teams organized in the Australian Football League.
The game was between the Collingwood Magpies and the St. Kilda Saints (both Melbourne-based teams). Collingwood seems to be the Bayern München or Ajax of the AFL. You either love them or actively dislike them.
To start with, I am not the biggest sports fan in the world, and this was only the 5th professional sports event I have seen live. I was sitting in the “posh” members-only section, in the middle of supporters from both teams. The good natured way with which they interacted, even though the game is taken very seriously, was something to behold, especially if you are used to the rivalries of European soccer.
The game itself is a curious affair, but very enjoyable to watch. It’s fast, with almost no breaks, and a high degree of athleticism. I can only recommend having a look at it on the AFL website. As I understand it started as a diversion for the cricket players, that wanted to do something more active than just stand around while one guy is throwing a ball at another guy.