Fuelled by Victoria’s strengthening relationship with South America, the return of Latin American students studying in Melbourne and the constant stream of Victorians taking their expertise in mining and other sectors across the Pacific, AFL teams have been established in Chile and Colombia.
In late 2016, and with the financial support of a Victorian Government grant, the Bogotá Bulldogs, an AFL Women’s football league was established in Bogotá, Colombia in conjunction with the Colombian charity organisation Buen Punto, which provides weekly Australian Football training to children under state care in the capital, as well as promoting surfing in Chocó, one of the most impoverished regions of the country.
With a 22-player strong team ranging from weekend enthusiasts to Olympians, the Bogotá Bulldogs AFLW hosted the USAFLW & AFLW Europe combined team earlier this year.
The event marked the first ever international women’s AFLW match in the Americas, which took place in at Los Pinos Polo Club on the outskirts of the Colombian capital and represented a drive forward in the development of Australian Rules football in Colombia. The Bogotá Bulldogs cruised to a 34-point victory (9.7.61 to 4.3.27) over the Denver Bulldogs.
Bogotá Bulldogs captain Karen Cifuentes said in a post-match interview with the Herald Sun how the event was an important milestone for her team. “We’ve been able to put together a team in such a short time and with such quality. We were able to compete against very good and experienced players, evenly for most of the match and at certain times even better. There’s a lot of work to be done, but we’re on a good path,” said Cifuentes.
The Bogotá Bulldogs men’s team was established in 2015 and has competed internationally against teams from Austin, Denver and Santiago de Chile.
The club's ultimate goal is to make it to the next staging of the AFL International Cup in 2020, a Melbourne-based tournament for non-expatriate AFL players.
AFL popularity spreads around the world
According to the AFL there are 4487 participants playing in Europe and 1165 of those are female.
More than 180,000 people play outside of Australia and 44 per cent of those players are women.
The countries with the biggest female participation are Papua New Guinea, South Africa and the South Pacific Nations.