A recent charity trip made by a group Australian teachers to a Cambodian primary school has since sparked a sponsorship war between two professional Australian Rules football teams.
Back in February of this year, five Australian teachers visited Kralanh primary, on a charity trip to help improve the facilities at the school near the town of Siem Reap. Before flying back to Australia the teachers gave Soluy Lovet, an IT teacher at the school, an Australian Rules football, and sparked a chain of events which would lead her to found a co-educational Australian Rules Football (AFL) team in Siem Reap.
The simple gesture has now sparked hysteria, with Cambodian children embracing the sport with zeal and curiosity. 80 children, some of whom actually attend neighbouring schools, now avidly participate in the sport. Soluy Lovet's focus is to now create a second Cambodian Rules football team- a team to rival the Phnom Penh Cobras, currently Cambodia's only competing AFL team.
The news of the sport's growing popularity in Cambodia has since caught the attention of two western Australian AFL teams, who are now vying for sponsorship deals with their two Cambodian counterparts.
The two AFL teams- the Freemantle Dockers and the West Coast Eagles- recognise the potential to give the traditionally native Australian sport worldwide recognition. According to a report in Australia, both teams have visited Cambodia over the summer months to negotiate deals to confirm affinity with these two Cambodian AFL teams.
The report from 7Days', an Australian weekly news publication, announced that several players had visited Phnom Penh during the AFL pre-season to help promote the sport in Cambodia's capital. However it also stated that the West Coast Eagles had in fact agreed a deal with the Phnom Penh outfit to change the name to the Cambodia Eagles.
The Freemantle Dockers though have stringently denied a deal has been agreed and are themselves currently in talks with both Cambodian teams for sponsorship arrangements.
7Days journalist Gary Adshead said that he didn’t expect any further developments “until after the AFL season finishes”.