Asia (plus Oceania!) is the most populous continent and quite possibly the fastest growing continent for floorball in the world. Carrying on from the article on floorball in South America, this piece will look at floorball in the Asia Oceania Floorball Confederation (AOFC) and will be delving into the history of and development of the 9 nations registered for the Men’s WFCQ 2022 AOFC event this May in Singapore and the other nations that comprise the AOFC.
The Asia Oceania Floorball Confederation (AOFC) consists today of 17 IFF members: Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and new member associations Kazakhstan and Chinese Macau.
Australia – Association founded: 1996. IFF member since: 1996
Australia have been one of the nation’s growing stronger and stronger, year on year, when it comes to floorball on the world stage. Their Women’s team achieved the highest finish at a World Championships finishing 9th in a smaller scale tournament in 1999 and most recently finished 11th in 2019 after not being able to attend the 2021 edition due to Covid. They have also finished the previous two AOFC qualification events in the top 2, qualifying as one of the best teams in the Asia/Oceania region. The men’s team achieved 12th in 2018, making it their best result and have on the past 3 occasions (2014, 2016, 2018) been the best team in Asia through the AOFC qualifying tournament for the World Championships. Due to Covid and strict travel rules floorball activity slowed down significantly but has resumed with adult and junior events and leagues in place. Regions in Australia during the pandemic were mostly limited to intra and inter club play harming development but at least enabling play to continue. Having missed the event in 2020 through no fault of their own, the Australian men’s team will be looking to come back strong and qualify for the WFC 2022 as one of the top AOFC teams.
China – Association founded: 2016. IFF member since: 2019
China is still a very new country to floorball having only become full ordinary members in 2019. Play and interest in the sport, however, has been going on since 2006 with small but dedicated groups of casual and recreational players. They have almost exclusively looked at building the game of floorball up from youth through to university/college level. By the end of 2018, more than ten colleges and universities in the city of Shanghai alone had opened formal courses, and had held exchange competitions between schools and foreign clubs. The main focus for the Chinese floorball federation has been to increase youth participation amongst all age categories and look to progress the talent and size of university floorball championships, from which they can then draw players from for both men’s and women’s national teams. Previously China has been represented only once for women’s and men’s internationally at senior level. The Women’s team competed in WFCQ AOFC in 2017 and the men in WFCQ AOFC in 2018. The women reaching 30th place in the rankings with the men finishing in 33rd position overall.
Korea – Association founded: 2004. IFF member since: 2005
The Korea floorball federation have always been an active and present sports federation in their home country. Tryouts, small competitions, player recruitment and training sessions for all ages have been key to keeping floorball visible and played actively in the country. More recently they have started to focus on European players with Korean roots, looking to bring those players in from abroad into the national team program, similar to the system Philippines has been using (with the exception of the training base still being in South Korea and not Europe). The university sports programmes are key for attracting and developing Korean floorball players with national university competitions organised every year for both men and women. The men’s national team qualified for the World Championships once, in 2014, where they finished 16th . This was their best result so far in any World Championship cycle. The women (who have only competed in 3 WFC qualifying cycles) matched their male counterparts by qualifying once for the World Championships, back in 2013 where they also finished 16th. Like other countries the pandemic has severely impacted playing numbers and opportunities for Korean floorball players, but those playing the sport should increase again in total, in the coming months and years.
Japan – Association founded: 1983. IFF member since: 1994
Japan is the oldest and best represented nation in the AOFC region. The women’s team has been entered into every single WFC qualifying cycle since the first tournament in 1997 with the men only missing the very first event in 1996. Japan has over 2500 officially licensed players in the country in various age brackets and playing ability. Like other Asian countries university floorball is played regularly and competitions are held annually. They hold 3 league competitions (Japan league, Kanto region league, Tohoku region league) with a 4th soon to be added, and have developed an action plan for the future with a pathway progression running from high school to university for players. This includes the idea to send the brightest talents at high school level overseas to learn and develop their floorball skills in countries with more coaching, playing and opportunities in general for floorball (Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Czech Republic). The best result for the national teams has been 8th place for the women in 2005 and 13th for the men in 1998. Every qualification cycle Japan on both the men’s and women’s side are always strong favourites to qualify and have an impressive record in AOFC qualifications often battling it out with Australia for top spot. Having missed the previous World Championships for both men and women due to COVID travel related issues, the hunger and desire to play in the next edition of each tournament will be huge for the Japanese floorball federation.
New Zealand – Association founded: 2009. IFF member since: 2009
The main focus for New Zealand as a developing floorball country is to further introduce and keep floorball in the programs of school education. Secondary school tournaments are seeing an increase in teams and participants every year, with the aim of developing an interest and passion for the sport at a young age for those who may not have heard of or seen floorball before. New Zealand are a relatively new federation and as such have only taken part in the previous 3 cycles of WFCQ AOFC on both the men’s and women’s side. The women’s side most recently achieved 19th position in the 2019 qualifiers narrowly missing out at qualifying for the Women’s World Championships in 2019. The men have struggled slightly in their AOFC qualifying stages achieving 26th position in their highly competitive qualifying event. Progression is being made however and getting to the ultimate goal of either a Women’s or Men’s World Championships would be a major boost and achievement for floorball in New Zealand.
Philippines – Association founded: 2011. IFF member since: 2011
Even though they joined the IFF quite recently in 2011 the Philippines has seen a very strong showing in talent, particularly in their Men’s national team. After the withdrawal of the Japanese and Australian teams due to Covid travel restrictions the Philippines came into the 2020 Men’s world championships tournament ranked 35th in the world and seen as underdogs. They produced some great results and thrilling matches, beating both Singapore and the USA before losing in a shootout to Thailand for 13th place and finishing 14th. Helped by a number of European based players with Philippine heritage and family, the men’s team helped shine a spotlight on the sport back home. The women’s team have only taken part in one qualification cycle back in 2019 where they failed to qualify for the World Championships and will be hoping to avenge that result next year for the 2023 Championships. With a strong Swedish base for their players and training camps and a developing interest and desire back in the Philippines, this could become one of the strongest Asian countries in floorball in the upcoming years.
Singapore – Association founded: 1995. IFF member since: 1995
Singapore is one of the oldest members of the IFF from the AOFC. This means the interest levels in Singapore for floorball are very high with the Singapore Floorball Association organising national floorball leagues, national Inter-Schools tournaments, coaching courses and officiating/referee seminars on a regular basis. More than 200 schools and 100 clubs take part in floorball competitions annually which is an amazing number for a developing floorball nation with a population of just over 5 million. This large-scale promotion, development and base foundation for floorball training and competition in the country has led to solidly performing national teams on both the men’s and women’s side. Singapore placed 10th in the 2007 Women’s WFC and the Men most recently were 16th in 2020. The men’s side also competed in the inaugural 1996 Men’s WFC becoming the first and only country from Asia to be represented in an international competition. With one of the largest player participation numbers in Asia floorball has a strong base and foundation to grow from in Singapore.
India – Association founded: 2001, re-organised 2012. IFF member since: 2002
India has a strong tradition with the sport of field hockey. Floorball, however, has a strong popularity amongst a smaller but equally passionate number of participants. The Indian Floorball Federation is very active hosting several regional and national tournaments and cup competitions. Annual events such as the Federation cup, inter university floorball championships, U19 championships and the Indian national floorball championships have helped seen player numbers swell particularly in certain regions and areas of the country. Various seminars are also held for coaches, referees and officials to help with the development, promotion and access to the sport. The national teams are limited to appearances only in AOFC cup competitions so far with both the men’s and women’s teams picking up wins in the competition. The Men’s national side have registered and are scheduled to take part in the AOFC WFCQ event in Singapore this May in a very strong and full AOFC field. It will be a historic moment for them as they represent India in a WFCQ event for the first time.
Thailand – Association founded: 2007. IFF member since: 2007
Thailand have had a fast and strong rise in the world of floorball. A number of their younger promising talents at a young age moved to Europe to chase more opportunities in floorball or picked up the sport after moving there. The men have entered two AOFC WFCQ events and qualified for the World Championships both times competing in 2016, 2018 and in 2020 when qualifying was cancelled. The Women’s team also have a 100% qualifying rate to World Championships, achieving this both times in 2017 and 2019 whilst also competing in the 2021 World Championships which took place without qualifying. Floorball has a small but very passionate base of players in Thailand with over 20 official clubs taking part in competition across the country on a regular basis. Thailand won the Men’s AOFC cup in 2017 and finished 13th in the 2020 WFC, their best result so far. The Women’s team managed their best result of 13th in the 2016 edition of the Women’s WFC and have competed in the last 3 World Championships. Thailand have a talented, exciting and young group of players hoping to keep their 100% qualifying record intact this May in Singapore.
Malaysia – Association founded: 2001. IFF member since: 2002
Other AOFC members have a history of floorball in their country and bases of floorball in their nations. Malaysia have entered 5 Men’s and 6 Women’s WFCQ AOFC and World Championships events. The Malaysian Women’s team finished 9th in the B division of the 2005 WFC in Singapore achieving their country’s best ever result of 17th overall. The Men have yet to qualify for the top step of the World Championships with their best result coming from the B division of the 2002 World Championships finishing 16th and therefore 23rd overall.
Indonesia – Association founded: 2009. IFF member since: 2009
Iran – Association founded: 2008. IFF member since: 2009
Pakistan – Association founded: 2019. IFF member since: 2019
The other remaining countries of the AOFC have yet to compete in an WFCQ AOFC event with Indonesia, Iran and Pakistan having competed in the AOFC cup events in 2017 and 2019. Floorball in countries such as Mongolia, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan and Chinese Macau are either very new and fresh or small in numbers and organisations. Kazakhstan recently benefitted from receiving material and equipment from the IFF’s “Stick With It!” equipment recycling program to help with their fresh beginning in floorball.
Mongolia – Association founded: 2005. IFF member since: 2006
Hong Kong, (China) – Association founded:2015. IFF member since: 2016
Kazakhstan – Association founded: 2021. IFF member since: 2022
Chinese Macau – Association founded: 2019. IFF member since: 2022
The top level of floorball has always been dominated by the European nations, but how long will it be before some nations from the AOFC can challenge them? Only time will tell.