In Europe’s biggest breakthrough yet the Greater Western Sydney Giants have offered an international scholarship to young Danish AFL player Aksel Bang, who will visit Sydney to train and play with the Giants this year.
The 21 year-old has just started six months national service with the Danish army in Afghanistan and will travel to Sydney during his scheduled break in April/May. After visiting Australia and seeing his first match 2 years ago he now plays for the Aalborg Kangaroos and Danish Vikings and was the leading player in the 2012 Euro Cup in Edinburgh. Seen and a tough and explosive midfielder in the European ranks he is very excited to continue his football education with the Giants.
Giants Chief Executive David Matthews said it was a great opportunity further develop talent from overseas. He said Bang would train with the club and also play in the GWS Giants in the NEAFL.
“AFL Europe has a done a lot of work building the code across the continent and we think Aksel is deserving of an opportunity to further his skills and education in the game,” Matthews said.
Head Coach Kevin Sheedy said he was delighted to bring a player from Denmark to the Giants. The club has formed several partnerships in Europe including the South East London Giants, the North Leinster Giants (Ireland), the Zaprude Giants (Croatia) and the Skåne Giants (Sweden).
“We have an obligation to invest in talented players wherever they may be around the world if we want to truly develop our game internationally,” Sheedy said.
“As someone who did national service himself, I look forward to learning more about Aksel and his experience in Afghanistan. I am sure our players will as well and he will learn a lot from spending time at an AFL club.”
General Manager of AFL Europe Ben MacCormack thanked the Giants for giving Bang an opportunity to develop his game at an elite level in Australia.
“He has come a long way in a short space of the time in our game and no doubt in years to come there will be more players like him heading to Australia to chase their dream of becoming an AFL players,” MacCormack said.
“This is an amazing opportunity for one of our best European talents. Aksel has learnt the game in Denmark and been involved in our Talent Programs in the last two years. We are very thankful to GWS Giants and in particular international visionaries Kevin Sheedy and David Mathews for supporting our efforts in highlighting the talent that exists in Europe. No doubt future years will see many more Aksel Bang’s heading to Australia chasing the dream of becoming an AFL footballer” MacCormack continued.
Aksel’s excitement at the announcement couldn’t be hidden. “This opportunity means a lot to me! It’s a dream come true for me. It’s not only a great opportunity for me to become a better footy player but also a great chance to make the Australians realise that footy is growing in Europe and we are developing some great players far away from Australia under some hard conditions because the sport isn’t very big over here yet. But because it’s a great game and people over here love it so much we have a great training culture and improve our skills every year. It’s a great honor for me to go down to Australia and represent Danish and European footy”.
The AFL’s investment in our region and the touring of the AIS-AFL Academy has made it possible for Aksel to be exposed to a high quality talent program and his progress has been outstanding. The Commission and I wish him all the best on this trailblazing journey with the GWS Giants” MacCormack concluded.