Australia as a nation embraces a sporting culture – from community based grassroots programs to supporting our most elite athletes perform on the world stage, Australians love sport. Sport has been a powerful force in uniting our nation, made up of people from a diverse range of countries and cultures.
Australia has used sport as a way of deepening our connections with Japan, from professional-level player exchanges, to friendly matches and sports visit programs for industry representatives.
Australia will continue to promote Australia’s sporting assets and expertise ahead of the Rugby World Cup hosted by Japan in 2019, and the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.
Sports diplomacy in focus: Rugby
Rugby is becoming increasingly popular in Japan since the Brave Blossoms’ successful campaign at the Rugby World Cup (RWC) in 2015. The RWC, one of the world’s largest sporting events, will take place in Japan in 2019, and Australian specialist companies are already assisting Japan in preparation.
Japan entered the Super Rugby competition for the first time in March 2016, with their debut against the Melbourne Rebels at Prince Chichibu Stadium in Tokyo. There are also several Japanese players who have joined Australian teams in the Super Rugby competition, including Ayumu Goromaru for the Queensland Reds and Kotaro Matsushima for the Melbourne Rebels.
For more information on the Japan team, the Sunwolves, including fixtures and results this season, please visit the Super Rugby website.
Sports diplomacy in focus: Soccer
Australians and Japanese share a love of soccer. Many Japanese players spend time playing with Australian teams in Australia. And in November 2014, the Australian Socceroos travelled to Osaka to play a friendly match against the Japanese Samurai ahead of the Asian Football Cup (AFC).
In 2015 Australia hosted Asia’s biggest sporting event the AFC and was proud to win the championship.
In February 2016, the Australian Women’s Soccer team, the Matildas, met Japan’s Nadeshiko, in a thrilling Olympic qualifier. The Australian Ambassador to Japan, Mr Bruce Miller, and the Osaka Consul-General, Ms Catherine Taylor, attended the match in Osaka. The Matildas made a successful start to their 2016 Olympic Games qualifying campaign with a 3-1 win.
Former Adelaide United and Newcastle Jets player, Nathan Burns, who is currently playing for F.C. TOKYO in the Japan League, has sent us his thoughts about sports diplomacy between Australia and Japan in the lead up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Sports diplomacy in focus: Baseball
Thousands of fans, steamy weather, hotdogs and beer – it’s not your average public diplomacy event in Japan. But that’s what the Australia Japan Foundation (AJF)-funded visit of the Australian Women’s Baseball team (the Emeralds) looked like in September 2014.
The Emeralds travelled to Japan for games, coaching and a cultural exchange with the Riseisha College in Osaka, prior to competing in the sixth Women’s Baseball World Cup, in Japan from 1-7 September. AJF Chair Murray McLean AO supported this visit saying it ‘represents a great sports diplomacy opportunity to extend people-to-people links between our two countries’.
Both teams developed strong bonds through the games, strengthening people-to-people links between Australians and Japanese through sports diplomacy. The Emeralds also took out the bronze medal in the Baseball World Cup!