Football is continuing its triumphant return across Asia, with activity in nearly all our countries ramping up to start the year. From juniors and seniors, we’re seeing more and more communities coming together to play our great game in 2022.

The Bali Geckos held their first official training for the 2022 season on March 23rd and had fantastic numbers. Preparations are underway for the Bali Masters, which is traditionally renowned as the biggest football tournament in the world. The Geckos have already received 24 team nominations for the June long weekend tournament and are expecting nominations to continue to steadily increase as more and more flights are opening up to the popular island holiday haven. On a regional front, the Bali Masters will be the first scheduled tournament in Asia since the global pandemic hit our shores, which is an exciting development and will provide AFL Asia with some important learnings ahead of the planned Asian Champs. It’ll be an interesting watch this space as to whether the Bali Geckos bring back their domestic competition this year after successfully launching it last season.

Back in February we saw some of the Beijing Bombers faithful incredibly kicking a footy in the snow in the Chinese capital. Thankfully the weather is more football friendly and the Bombers began their regular training on March 19th. The Bombers have organised an Anzac Day Event on Saturday April 23rd and are bringing back their BAFL, which has been in a dormant phase for a number of years. A joint Gaelic Football & Aussie Rules Day has also been pencilled in for May 7th and is expected to attract plenty of locals plus Australians, South Africans, Welsh, English, Papua New Guineans and Hungarians from the expat community to jump on board.

The Phnom Penh Auskick is absolutely booming under the guidance of coach Luke Creamer and they are expecting numbers to continue to soar after they recently received a box of brand new Sherrins. The Cambodian Eagles and Cambodian Apsaras recently had their annual St. Patrick’s Day of Gaelic Football with the Cairde Khmer GAA Club. There’s an exiting and vibrant feeling around the two team-one club and they’ve had plenty of local players on the training track, including 30 local players out of 33 attendees at their training back on March 9th. The Eagles and Apsaras have produced some brilliantly interactive videos on their social media platforms of recent times which has increased their engagement more broadly.

Cambokick in Phnom Penh has recently enjoyed a delivery of some brand new Sherrins to help boost numbers.

The Guangzhou Scorpions have had plenty of numbers on the training track in recent times and were gaining considerable momentum heading into Round 2 of the Guangdong AFL (GDAFL) 2021-22 season two weeks ago. The Scorpions have recruited a strong contingent of female footballers in recent times and we suspect that they’re not far away from having a China Reds AFLW Asian Champs team, which is an exciting development.

Heading further south and to one of the Guangzhou Scorpions’ Southern China AFL (SCAFL) neighbouring opponents, the Hong Kong Dragons are yet to begin their 2022 campaign and are still unable to train due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. On a positive note, flights in and out of Hong Kong have recently recommenced with nine countries, which indicates that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for the proud club and its thriving metropolis.

The Indonesia capital of Jakarta has been a buzzing hotspot for football in the region, with the Jakarta Bintangs having a stack of numbers on the training track and recently had a scratch match that had two teams consisting of 20 players/side. There’s a huge amount of local players and an ever growing amount of female footballers, which is outstanding to see. The Bintangs also visited the Mama Sayang Orphanage on March 16th  and ran a training session and delivered a generous donation from their major sponsor Trade Indy. The Mama Sayang Orphanage has often been described a “footballing factory” for local talent in Indonesia.

Over to Japan and the AFL Japan clubs were delighted that they were able to recommence training for the first time this season in the last weekend of March. COVID-19 restrictions had been in place in Japan shortly after the Japanese New Year and were thankfully lifted on March 21st. No football has been played in Japan since the 2021 AFL Japan A.LEAGUE Grand Final, which was played on December 18th between the two university outfits, the Komazawa Magpies and the Senshu Powers, with the Komazawa Magpies winning their first ever premiership flag. An Anzac Day Cup tournament is in the pipeline and planned to take place in Osaka on April 23rd.

The Malaysian Warriors and Malaysian Warrior Women’s are rebounding strongly ahead of a big year for the proud club as they celebrate their 30th year anniversary and in doing so held their 30th season launch on April 1st. The Warriors held an AFL 9’s tournament back on March 19th and have plenty of numbers on the track. The 2017 Division 1 Asian Champions and 2019 AFLW Asian Champions have been building substantially both on and off the field and are looking forward to a highly successful and celebrated season ahead.

The Malaysian Warriors launched their 2022 season in style.

AFL Pakistan hosted a highly successful Inter-League Tournament, which was won by the Parachinar Giants back in February. Amazingly the Parachinar Giants travelled over 15 hours (round-trip) to attend the AFL Pakistan Inter-League Tournament. Parachinar is the capital of the Kurram District in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is the closest point in Pakistan to Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, which is only 110 kilometres away. AFL Pakistan recently had a fruitful meeting with AFL International Manager Simon Highfield and the AFL Asia Advisory Board and all indications are that our relationship with AFL Pakistan has never been better and that there’s plenty growth on the horizon in Pakistan.

Football is finally back in the Philippines and isn’t it back in a big way after the proud club endured a two year hiatus due to the global pandemic. The first Philippines AFL (PAFL) game in over two years was played between the traditional PAFL rivals in the Eurukas and Dingoes on April 2nd. The Dingoes were the eventual winners 21.5 (131) to 4.7 (31). The PAFL have been delivering their Auskick program, led by Colin Crooks, in conjunction with their senior teams training and has been a very fruitful investment that’ll hopefully develop the next generation of Philippine Eagles footballers. The PAFL are bouncing back big time both on and off the field  and being led by new PAFL President Marty Cerantonio.

The Dingoes enjoyed a big win during a triumphant return for football in the Philippines.

Registrations for the Singapore Sharks 2022 season commenced on March 23rd, with the season proper due to commence on April 24th. The Singapore Sharks deliver the biggest junior development and Auskick program in the world and have extensively grown their junior female program in recent years and will be hopeful that they can get a full season away in 2022 after experiencing stop-start seasons the past couple of years.

The Singapore Wombats ‘FitBats’ preseason program kicked off on February 27th and finished up on April 3rd after their final testing and weigh-in. From all reports Benny Adams is looking remarkably fit, whilst the word on the street is that club cult figure Sanchez has been struggling to get out of his warren. In all seriousness though, the Wombats have built a strong AFLW team since their AFLW Asian Champs debut in 2019 and have a plethora of players on their books.

Australian Football Sri Lanka recently received a delivery of footballs that’ll hopefully inject some enthusiasm and life into their football development. With a large contingent of Sri Lankan footballers based in metropolitan Melbourne and unable to travel back to their motherland, it has been very difficult in recent years to get the game growing on an ongoing basis.

There’s plenty energy and excitement coming out of Thailand with the Thailand Tigers hosting Round 1 of their Domestic Season on March 19th, which was dedicated in the memory of their club sponsor Garry Simon. Round 2 was played on April 2nd with the Thaigers having excellent numbers in their Auskick, women’s and men’s levels. The family club will host their 17th annual Anzac match on April 23rd in Kanchanburi in what has been one of the most celebrated Anzac Day fixtures in the region. Plans are already underway for the 2022 Asian Champs in conjunction with the AFL Asia clubs, which will be hosted by the Thailand Tigers. The Thailand Tigers hosted the most recent Asian Champs held in the region back in 2019.

The Vietnam Swans have kicked off their 2022 season with plenty of momentum in the nation’s capital of Hanoi and down south in Saigon. The Hanoi contingent hosted the final round of their inaugural 2021-22 Hanoi GAAFL season on March 28th, whilst in Saigon they held Round 1 of their SAFL season on the same day. The Swannies have one of the strongest Gaelic affiliation relationships in Asia, which has certainly been a mutually beneficial one both on and off the field domestically and on the Asia-wide stage. The Vietnam Swans will host their annual Anzac Day clash on Saturday April 23rd in Vung Tau and plans are already underway with the Cambodian Eagles & Apsaras to rekindle their previously bi-yearly Cannonball Cup.

The Swannies are up and about to start their 2022 season.

After very little football being played across Asia over the past two years, it’s fantastic to see the region bouncing back in such a big way. Expect more announcements and developments from AFL Asia and its clubs in the coming weeks.