Celebrating Footy Grand Final and AFL’s History in France

28/09/2023

There’s something undeniably special about the sacrosanct Footy Grand Final, an event that unites Australians and fans around a barbeque. The Footy Grand Final is more than just a sports event; it’s a cultural phenomenon. It’s a day to gather with friends and family, fire up the barbeque, crack open a cold one, and cheer for their favourite team. It’s a day when rivalries are put on hold (well, mostly!) as everyone comes together to celebrate the sheer spectacle of the game.

But did you know that this beloved sport has also found its place in the hearts of the French? Let’s explore the historical connection between France and the AFL.

A Little History:

In fact, it is a fascinating story that links Australian football to Europe.

Australian soldiers of the ANZAC brought their passion for Australian football to Europe while deployed in France. These soldiers played footy in their spare time as a way to entertain themselves, sheltered from the guns, and to maintain a link with their culture and homeland. Sport played a major role in the soldiers’ daily lives.

The historic location of Villers-Bretonneux in France is particularly significant in this story. It is believed to be the site of the first Australian football matches in Europe during the First World War. These matches were organised to entertain soldiers before they went to the front, providing a temporary escape from the brutality of war.

This historic link between Australian football and the First World War in Europe is a poignant testament to how sport can serve as a source of comfort and distraction even in the most difficult of circumstances, while strengthening cultural ties between nations.

The Anzac Cup, which commemorates this event, is a demonstration of the importance of maintaining the link between Villers-Bretonneux and Australia.

And since 2000s when a group of expats introduced again the sport to curious locals, the French have taken a keen interest in this high-octane, physically demanding sport. Today, you can find AFL clubs and teams in various cities across the country, from Paris to Bordeaux.

The French AFL community has not only embraced the game but also the culture and camaraderie that come with it. They’ve learned the rules, perfected their handballs, and even celebrated their own versions of the Grand Final, complete with French flair.

So, whether you’re an expat missing the comforts of home or a curious local looking for a taste of Australian culture, attending a Footy Grand Final barbecue, in France is an experience like no other. It’s a celebration of sport, friendship, and the beautiful blend of cultures that make our world a more colourful place.

Marilyne Lemoine-Lopez

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