By Thomas Urban
For many years, the city of Villers-Bretonneux has organized a whole week of festivities around the ANZAC Day (historic movies, photos exposition, visit of memorials). In 2009, some Australians with strong connections with the Villers-Bretonneux battle contacted CNFA (governing body of Australian Football in France) to organize a game between French and Australian expats in Europe, with the Australian team to be known as the Aussie Spirit. After 2 years playing on a soccer field, the city of Villers-Bretonneux and CNFA hired a farmers field in front the Memorial. Those involved in the event love to think that this site is where the first Australians played football in France, in 1916. Unfortunately this year the event has reverted back to the towns pitch because of increased cost to rent the field, however we hope that for the centenary we will be able to return to the oval looking up and the hill and memorial.
CNFA continue to promote Australian Football in France and develop the game in as many cities as possible. France has a relative lack of commemorative sports games except the ANZAC Cup. This provides them the opportunity to make some waves and let people know what Australian Football is and that it is not just an Australian sport but also a French one.
Villers-Bretonneux is a part of Australia: Melbourne Café, Victoria Street, Victoria School… When you arrive in VB there is an unusual feeling you are in France but also in Australia. It is natural that CNFA continue to play a role in the events of the week. As Australia has the MGC, CNFA dreams that VB oval will be the national ground and maybe one day the Essendon v Collingwood game will be played over at the foothills of the memorial.
The score of the game doesn’t matter, the friendship between our 2 countries is the most important. That’s why together we created the ANZAC: to keep the Spirit. Lest we forget.