As a young boy in India, Sudip Chakraborty discovered his love for footy. And as an adult, he shared that passion with the rest of India, building a network of more than 8,000 Indian footy players actively participating in what is termed the most loved outdoor game in Australia.
“I have spent the last five years playing and promoting the game in India and the game has grown from having about 100 players less than a decade ago, to the 8,000,” says Sudip.
The passion for the game paid off in another way as well. Seeing his dedication towards expanding the base of the game in India, AFL Victoria and Essendon Football Club have now brought him on board as Community engagement officer.
In his new role, Sudip has been tasked with strengthening AFL’s support base among multicultural communities, especially Indian Australians.
“Footy for Australians is just like cricket is for Indians. If you don’t know footy in Victoria, you’re bound to feel out of place. That’s how much people love the game,” says Sudip, who plans to work on promoting that idea among international students so they can feel more comfortable in Australia.
“I think it’s footy that has made me a go-getter,” laughs Sudip, who will look to expand the Club’s presence within the large Indian community based in Melbourne’s north-west. “I used to play cricket and soccer when I was growing up in Kolkata. But a promotional tour from Aussie cricketer Ricky Ponting introduced me to Aussie Rules and there was just no going back,” he adds.
Then two years ago, Sudip helped guide young Essendon leaders Zach Merrett, Joe Daniher, David Zaharakis and Dyson Heppell around his home state of West Bengal as part of their two-week visit to India.
Sudip is now focusing on next year’s International Cup where the Indian team is set to adopt the ‘Bombers’ moniker and wear the red and black.