After discovering Australian Rules 13 years ago while travelling through Australia, Martin Schittegg knew he had to give it a go.
Back home a few months later in Graz, Austria, Martin found that there was a club in Vienna where he could attend training. This only grew his passion for the game and his desire to play competitively, so the following year he started a team in Graz – the Styrian DownUnderDogs.
Martin’s work didn’t stop there, he was chairman of the club for four years, captain for six years and coach for an incredible 11 years.
“Since we were the sole team in our country, most of the time our team was the national team as well where I was also coach for eight years, captain, and I am still the team manager. During all this time I was, and still am, a player,” Schittegg said.
One of the key areas of growth for footy in Austria is trying to build other clubs to join the DownUnderDogs. There is a team based in Vienna that is looking to rebuild and begin playing competitively again next year after a number of years absent from any official games.
“My dream would be if one or two more teams were formed in Austria – a separate Austrian league would be great and would take footy to a new level on every respect in our country,” he said.
In terms of football in Europe, Martin sees that the footy community is growing, as well as major tournaments such as the Euro Cup and Champions League getting bigger each year. To help deal with that growth and continue having successful tournaments, Martin believes that having divisions or extending tournaments will eventually happen with more teams from more nations competing.
“I think the limit for tournaments that can be played in one day will be reached soon, so there will be either some kind of divisions system, or the tournament duration will have to be extended to two or more days,” he said.
What attracted Martin to get involved in the game was a variety of the skills and attributes needed to play. He says that everything about the sport is great, from the pace of the game to the long kicks, and unique skills such as handballing.
It’s not all physical though, as Martin loves the fact you have to be mentally focused no matter the intensity of the match. Making quick decisions and moving the ball cleanly are key parts that stand out to him that can sometimes be missed in such a frantic sport.
Martin’s love for the game clearly shines through all the work he has done to help grow the sport in his home country and it certainly sounds like Martin still has plenty of goals he wants to achieve with Australian Football, one of them consisting of building more teams and an Austrian league.
Whatever happens next with footy in Austria, it’s in good hands with people like Martin part of the community and just like the game in Europe, it’s looks like a bright future ahead for Australian Rules in Austria.