All China Gaelic Games and GAA in Korea

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to join 2 ladies and 14 men from Seoul Gaels in Shanghai to compete in the All China Gaelic Games. Teams from Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Dalian and Seoul, over 200 players from 10 different nationalities took part in the competition.

This was a weekend that showed that GAA in Asia is well and truly alive. I can’t help but wonder if, in 1884, Michael Cusack ever thought that 130 years after the GAA was founded, it would see clubs doing so well in Asia, thousands of miles from Tipperary.

I also think about how we, as Irish people, take GAA for granted. Every parish, village and town has a pitch with proper goals, people who know what Gaelic football is and how it’s played, access to footballs, jerseys, sponsors and trainers.  In Seoul, I see the committee struggle each week to secure a pitch for us to play. Each year, due to the very nature of expat living, there is a huge changeover of players. But despite all the difficulties, clubs continue, training goes on and so starts the dedication to the season and the team.

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Playing here is a little different to how we play back home. Games are 7 minutes a side, 9 players per team. In 30 degree summer heat, 7 minutes is a long time. In Korea, we have our own league with teams, mens and ladies from Seoul, Busan and Daegu. If numbers allow, teams are divided A and B. The league has at least 3 rounds so it provides a great opportunity to improve on fitness and skills between rounds, especially for new players.

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Then, there are Asian competitions like the All China Gaelic Games (ACGG’S), North Asian Gaelic Games (NAGG’s)and the Asian Gaelic Games (AGG’s). For the ACGG’s, only three of us were able to travel from the Seoul ladies team so Shanghai kindly agreed to let us play with one of their teams. This is the perfect example of how attitude is the winning formula for GAA in Asia. There is literally no such thing as “can’t” here. Everyone is welcome regardless of age, nationality or skill set. Everyone is encouraged to come out and get involved regardless of whether they’ve played before or whether they can commit to every tournament or not. It’s that welcoming approach that makes me regret not joining my team sooner. Despite never having met the women from Shanghai before Saturday, they welcomed us as part of their team and by playing with them, we walked away from the tournament having learned a lot that we can bring into the next games with us.

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Our mens team enjoyed exceptional success in Shanghai, losing out on the gold medal by just one point. Two of our players also won All star awards so overall a successful outing.

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It’s not all about the football either. Being part of the team is as much about the craic we have off the pitch as it is about the football itself. The theme for the after party last weekend was “Pirates of the Carribbean” and there were a few strange looks from the other guests in the hotel as pirates walked in and out of the lobby!

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Here in Korea, we’re preparing to host the North Asian Gaelic games this year which we’re really looking forward to. Teams from Japan and China as well as our own Korean teams will travel to take part in the tournament on July 5th.

If you’re interested in getting involved in GAA in Korea, you can contact our clubs;

http://seoulgaels.weebly.com/

https://www.facebook.com/daegu.fianna.3

https://sites.google.com/site/busangaa/home

Or for GAA in Asia

http://www.asiancountyboard.com/

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The importance of travelling.

There have been a lot of new arrivals,recently, in to our little group in Paju.  Some of these new arrivals, take the adjustment to Korean life really well.  Others,  not so well.  As I get to know them, a common link appears.  Those who do really well here and settle in well have travelled before. Those who require the hand holding and the guiding have never travelled outside of their home countries. 

To hang out with these people makes for a very entertaining night.  At a social gathering, the ones who have travelled will show up and despite not knowing anyone, will mingle and introduce themselves and talk about everything. Those who have never travelled, tend to wait on the sidelines and expect people to come over and talk to them.   And when they do, the conversation tends to be limited.  The Paddy no travellers tend to find it harder to trust and form friendships.  If you tell them something, they’ll ask 5 other people the same question just to make sure that what you told them is true. 

They also tend to spend their time continuing to live their lives as if at home.  They consistently skype, moan about how much they miss their home comforts and see returning home for vacation as a good idea. 

Paddy I’ve travelled are much more adventurous people.  While they maintain a relationship with those at home, they always tend to travel Asia for vacation time and are more “go with the flow” people, their easier to hang out with and will laugh at their mistakes rather than panicking about them. 

I once went on a vacation with a person who hadn’t travelled and a person who had.  It was a 4 day vacation.  I can say that we spent a great deal of the time on that vacation looking out for the person who hadn’t travelled.  They just weren’t able to handle themselves.  Constantly leaving their things unattended, wandering off without a word, depending on us for every little thing, not thinking for themselves.   It was a complete nightmare. 

All these things, for me, go back to travelling.  When you travel, you instinctively learn how to do things.  If you get lost, you get yourself unlost.  You know how to take care of yourself in a foreign situation, how to take care of your stuff and it gives you a certain independence and confidence.  Travelling and experiencing something different also makes you think differently.  I can’t really explain this, I just know that it’s there.  When you see other cultures and experience completely alternative ways of life, then that experience makes you change your thinking in a certain way.  Travelling makes you open yourself up to new ideas and gives you the opportunity to learn.

Of course, I’m not saying this as a criticism, merely an observation. I realise that some people simply don’t get the opportunity to travel.   Paddy no traveller, deserves a lot of credit for getting outside of their comfort zone and coming to Asia.  And I’m also not saying that every Paddy no traveller is the same.  Everyone is different, every situation is different but in general, the above observation tends to be true.