The Johor Malaysia Gaelic Football Club (GFC) is one of the newest sports clubs in Johor Bahru to set up a strong base, and has grown from strength to strength in the last number of years. This is a club based on the massively popular sport of Gaelic Football, with the Irish league consisting of 31 Irish teams plus London.
While the semi-professional teams playing at the highest levels are primarily based in Ireland, there are local teams spread across all five continents. Asia has a very strong following with teams from every country in the Southeast Asia region and a strong competitive environment which results in a number of exhibition games, as well as a number of tournaments, culminating in the annual Asian Gaelic Games (AGGs) held in November each year. The next AGG will be in Kuala Lumpur in November 2019.
What is Gaelic Football?
That is a question that every member of this, and every other club in the region is used to hearing on a near-daily basis. Is it like soccer? No. Rugby? Not really. Aussie Rules? Getting warmer.
The best way of describing it is how the new-comers to the game describe it, as they have been unbiased by years of knowing the sport. Put simply, one of our Scottish club members has described it as a mix of soccer, rugby, basketball and netball.
It is a fast paced game played with a round ball, where players can kick and carry the ball with the objective of scoring into a rugby-shaped post. A point is scored when the ball is kicked over the cross bar, and a goal is scored by kicking the ball into the goal, past the opposing teams goal keeper, similar to soccer (which accounts for three points). In a full-sized pitch, a team consists of 15 players – one goalkeeper and 14 on-the-pitch players. In Asia, typical tournaments are played as 9-a-side consisting of one goalkeeper and seven on-the-field players.
Where it All started in Johor
The Johor Malaysia GFC was originally established in 2014 by a group of Irish colleagues who were positioned in Johor Bahru as part of an IT project for 18 months. Being dropped into the “Jewel of the South”, the club started with a strong player base since day one, defying all odds and expectations by reaching the semi-final of their first AGG championship, and beating many hotly-tipped favorites along the way.
While off to a strong start, as is the nature of expats on fixed-term placements, the team lost many of its core players in the following years. They continued regardless, joining with other smaller clubs in the region at organised events to field a full team and continue to take part and keep the hopes and dreams of the club alive.
The Club Today
Fast forward to early 2017 when the club in its entirety consisted of approximately 12 players who refused to let the club die. Following a conscious effort to get it back up on its feet, the remaining members went on a promotional and membership drive. During the second half of 2017 and all the way through 2018, the club members promoted the sport and its benefits with gusto to anyone who would listen.
As of October 2018, they proudly recruited over 60 members fielding a full men’s team, and for the first time since the club was established, a full women’s team as well, both playing at the main event of the AGGs held in Bangkok in November 2018. Following two full days of matches, the club was awarded the prestigious “Club of the Year” in Asia due to its efforts in tireless promotion, and establishing firm and sustainable roots for its participation in a wide range of sports, social and community-based events.
Currently, the club is made up of members from many countries. A current total of 19 countries are represented, with a healthy split of 50/50 men and women, ranging in ages from 18 to 60 years old. Rather than describing it as a football club with a social side, it is seen more as a social club with an obsession for Gaelic Football, and a few other sports thrown in to mix it up every now and again.
Most of the current members have never seen or heard of the game before joining the club, and were perplexed and captivated on the first night of their training. It is fair to say that once everyone got an understanding of the basic rules and what was involved, they were on board. Moreover, this passion and openness has led to people bringing family, friends, work colleagues along for some healthy exercise and comradery. To this day, new players come and join every 2-3 weeks, and a strong push is being made in the first half of 2019 to strengthen club numbers further. The main focus of the club apart from its strong social connections is to get everyone ready for their first club competition of the year, which is the South Asia Ladies League in Ho Chi Minh in April, and the South-East Asian Games for the men and women in Hanoi in May.
- Northern Ireland
- South Africa
As the club has progressed from strength to strength, the committee has set down challenging targets for the next three years. One of these is to fortify the sustainability of the club, which proved to be a learning curve a number of years ago when the original founders had moved on. The ability to have a niche sport in a country where it is largely unknown is challenging, but far from impossible. In 2019, the Johor Malaysia GFC will be hosting a number of events, one of which is the MYKick competition.
This is a programme aimed at local schools during August 2019 where the club will be bringing in a professional development coach to primary/secondary schools in Johor Bahru to develop physical literacy, teach basic Gaelic Football skills and create awareness of Irish culture and Gaelic sports. By introducing the sport at a school level, this will increase the awareness and profile of the sport to parents, as well as generate a pipeline of young, interested, and talented players who will be able to lead and guide the club in the future.
Additionally, in September 2019, Johor will also host the South Asia Ladies Tournament (SALT) which is open to all ladies’ teams in South Asia. This is replacing the Peninsula Cup and is expected to include teams from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Vietnam.
In order to tie these two events together, it is anticipated that the MYKick participants will partake in a demonstration game before the grand finale of SALT.
Due to the strong turnout in terms of player growth, the club aim to increase their participation in 2019 when the AGG’s are held in Kuala Lumpur by putting forward two men’s teams and one ladies’ team. This is also in the hopes that by 2021, participation will double making it possible in putting forward two teams for both the men’s and women’s competitions.
Would You Like to Get Involved?
Currently, the club is looking for new players and people willing to engage. All fitness levels are welcome, and those interested shouldn’t worry about not having any knowledge of the sport. All that new people are asked to bring is a bottle of water and a positive attitude!
The team currently train each Monday at 8pm on the astro-turf of Marlborough College in Iskander Puteri, and hold training each Saturday at 10am. The location currently rotates in different parts of the city to make it easier for participants to join.
For anyone interested in getting more information, we have a FaceBook page – Johor Malaysia Gaelic Football Club – or alternatively any other questions can be sent to John on 019-7794125.
Finally, new members can show up at Monday evening trainings and will be welcomed and walked through the basic skills, as well as given a healthy run around to start off the week.