Australian Football League set to enter India

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Mumbai, May 5 (UNI) The Australian Football League--a combination of soccer, basketball and rugby league--looking at the huge marketing potential that India has to offer, is all set to enter the country with an exhibition tie next February or in early 2010.

''We have visited four cities the country to promote the AFL which is our nation's winter sport and very popular in our country. We are talking to various companies here to promote it and we will hold an exhibition tie here either in February 2009 or 2010,'' AFL's General Manager Dale Holmes said at a press conference today.

''We have a 400,000 strong Indian community in Australia and want them to take up the game. Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting is AFL's ambassador in India. A lot of Australian cricketers have played this sport in their younger days and, in fact, the game was invented by the cricketers in 1858 and pre-dates rugby,'' he added.

Admitting that it was a huge challenge to make the game popular in India, which has not taken to rugby in a big way, Mr Holmes said the main idea at present was to try and get support from the corporate community in the country.

''We have visited Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and have enjoyed watching some Indian Premier League games too,'' he added.

Mr Holmes said as a first measure, an Indian amateur team would take part in an AFL international tournament at the Melbourne Cricket Ground later this year.

''Eighteen nations would take part in it and in Australia the cricket grounds are used by AFL in winter months,'' he added.

UNI GS RN AB US1826

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