The game of Australian Rules Football, which was first played in Winter in 1858 by students from Melbourne private schools to keep their fitness up during the cricket off season, has made its way to Pakistan and is igniting interest and passion by all who are introduced to it. https://dailytimes.com.pk/assets/uploads/2020/08/07/WhatsApp-Video-2020-08-07-at-11.27.58-AM.mp4Australian Rules football is a game which is believed to have its origins from a mixture of games and nationalities including English rugby and soccer, Irish Gaelic Football and Australia’s first people’s Aboriginal game of Marngrook. The unique mix of skills, hard tackling, high flying and long kicking quickly caught on and before long teams sprung up everywhere and crowds of thousands of football lovers flocked to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch this entertaining Australian game. The M.C.G. being the same place where Pakistan won the World Cup of Cricket in 1992. Fast forward to today and the game has grown to become a professional league of 18 men’s teams spread across the whole of Australia. Professional players can earn in excess of a million dollars a season which consists of 23 home and away rounds in all parts of Australia. The teams who finish in the top eight then play off in a four round finals series, where the last two teams standing progress to the grand final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in September in front of 100,000 passionate and excited fans. The winner of this game is crowned the premiers of the competition and awarded the premiership cup.Excitingly in 2017, a semi-professional Australian Rules Football league, with eight teams for female players was created. An extra two teams were added during the 2019 season and the league was further extended by four teams in 2020 to have a total of 14 teams playing off to become the AFLW premier female football team of Australia. Australian Rules Football sparks such passion and interest around Australia and across the world due to players having to display skills and fitness components from basketball, rugby, soccer and fitness in a team of 22 players, with an oval ball, on a field the size of a cricket ground. The mental and physical toughness required to play Australian Rules Football without any protection also makes it a sport of choice. I think, in my role as Pakistan National Women’s AFL Coach and Pakistan National Men’s Assistant AFL Coach, it is this challenge of courage, physicality and great fun which appeals to the male and female Pakistani Australian Rules players I have met and coached.The Australian Rules Pakistan Football League was introduced to Pakistan in April 2014 by Chaudrey Zulfiqar Ali and Tayyab Chattha with support from the Australian High Commission. Since then there has been many Australian Rules Football tournaments played across Pakistan from teams established in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan and Gujranwala. The best players from these teams were chosen to represent Pakistan National Men’s Australian Rules Football team which participated in the Australian Football League International Cup in Melbourne, Australia in 2014 and 2017. The rise and rise of interest in Australian Rules Football across Pakistan led to the first ever National Pakistan Women’s Australian Rules team being selected and brought to Melbourne, Australia to compete in the 2017 Australian Football League International Cup. International Pakistan Female soccer, hockey and badminton players such as Abiha Haider, Karishma Ali, Asma Zubair and the Masood twins were amongst these courageous record breaking trailblazers. In 2019, thanks to support from AFL Pakistan President Sadar Tariq, AFL Pakistan Vice President’s Dr. Shahbaz Choudry and Jamil Kamran, AFL Pakistan General Secretary Chaudrey Zulfiqar Ali and the Australian based Pakistan Shaheens Sporting and Social Club led by President Kashif Bouns and Director of Communications Syed Ariz, Australian based Pakistan National AFL coaches Michael Gallus and Wassim Rafihi spent time in Pakistan touring the country and developing the game of AFL from Karachi to Islamabad.Tune in to my column next week to hear about this extraordinary adventure and the impact Pakistan had on both Michael and Wassim.