Italy hosts first Aussie Rules match - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Italy hosts first Aussie Rules match

By Greg Roberts 16/05/2010 12:07:37 PM Comments (0)

Rome once ruled the world, but until this weekend Italy had never witnessed an official game of Australian Rules football.

Not anymore, after Rome and Milan locked horns on Saturday afternoon at a rugby training ground near the banks of the Tiber River in the Italian capital.

That's right: Rome and Milan, the Aussie Rules teams, not Serie A soccer heavyweights AS Roma or Inter Milan.

The match was a friendly, ahead of the first ever AFL Italia Australian Rules premiership season, which will start next month with four teams.

The other teams are from Genoa - commonly cited as the home of the first Italian soccer club - and the Swiss town of Lugano near the Italian border.

It is an ambitious challenge for the organiser, 45-year-old Australian-born Italian lawyer Nicolai Giampaolo.

Soccer is a religion in the land shaped like a football boot.

"It is going to be a great couple of months with out first season of home and away matches and finals," Mr Giampaolo told AAP after umpiring the first game that Rome won by four goals in wet conditions and in front of a small crowd.

The sport in Italy is backed by Australia's ambassador to Italy, Amanda Vanstone, and ambassador to the Holy See and former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer, who attended the match.

"I observed a match with a strong standard that was better than a Hume League match," he told AAP, referring to the southern NSW competition in his old electorate.

"It was a historic moment for the magic game."

Mr Giampaolo moved to Italy from Melbourne in 1983 to study and stayed on, but he played football as a teenager and says his wife kept him interested in Australia's home-grown game.

"There are a group of Australian-born Italians here that are interested in making Australian Rules football grow," he said.

"They introduced it here, the first few training sessions in Rome had about 22 guys, but then it grew to 30 guys who were all interested and had fallen in love with the game after seeing it on TV.

"Most of the players are Italian born.

"I am sure the Italian community back in Australia will be interested to know people love the sport here."

Mr Giampaolo will coach the Italian national team for the sixth EU Cup, which is the European Championship of Australian football and will be played in Italy in September.

The AFL employs a marketing officer in Europe.

Mr Giampaolo also wants to take the team to the Australian Football International Cup in Melbourne next year, but will have to get financial backing to fly at least 30 people to Melbourne.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2024 AAP

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