Expats shipping to Australia, and Melbourne in particular, will soon find that one of the best ways to integrate into the culture there is simple: choose a sports team to root for!
Melbourne is a big sports city, home to the Australian Open, a Formula 1 race each March, and many cricket and rugby games. But maybe the most important sport in Melbourne, at least to the locals, is the “footy”, or Australian Football to those not familiar with which particular “footy” this refers to. One of the first things many newcomers and visitors to Melbourne do is watch an Australian Football game, either live, or at a packed sports bar, where Melbournians will flock to cheer on their teams together. And when locals from Melbourne ask you what team you support, you can pretty much be sure it is footy teams they are referring to.
Melbourne, Home of Footy
The Australian Football League is comprised of 18 teams, and 9 of these teams call one of Melbourne's stadiums home, making the game a true institution of the city. The game is 100% Australian, which definitely contributes to how protective the Aussies feel about their football: it is both entirely unique and home-grown.
The origins of the sport can be traced all the way back to the 1800s, when it began as an off-season game for cricket players to play together to stay in shape. An Australian Football game takes place on a grassed oval pitch that measures 135 to 185 metres long by 110 to 155 metres wide. The ball is an ovoid shape and is known to bounce unpredictably. You can move the ball up and down the pitch by kicking, throwing and running, and bouncing the ball. You score points by kicking the ball through sets of four posts, and you gain 1 point for getting the ball through the outer posts, six for getting it through the centre set of posts.
Many say that gaining a knowledge of the sport, and learning how to talk about it, is a very good way for expats who live in Melbourne to associate themselves with the city, in a way that stops them feeling isolated in conversations with colleagues or new friends. Team fan clubs and invitations to games are a good place to find a new social circle. No matter your reasons for choosing a team to root for, or how avidly you follow the sport, it's important to realise that love it or hate it, Australian Football is just part and parcel of living in Melbourne.