BUSAN, South Korea — June 11th was a landmark occasion in Busan’s sporting and social calendar; it was the first Annual General Meeting of the recently formed Laochra Busan GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) Club. The GAA, with its headquarters are in Croke Park, Dublin, oversees the operation of Gaelic games, such as Gaelic football, hurling, camogie (ladies’ hurling), handball, and rounders (similar to baseball), but Laochra Busan GAA is currently focused on the formation of its two Gaelic football teams — one for men and another for ladies.
When asked what drove him to found Laochra Busan GAA Club, Chairman Peter Bonner, replied, “Basically, I have played Gaelic football for 18 or so years. I can never remember not playing it. It’s the only sport that I had a real passion for when I was growing up, and you do miss it when you’re not playing it. Where I’m from, Aghamore, County Mayo, in Ireland, my team is the focal point of a very small community. Being part of a small community in Busan and playing Gaelic football really does ring true!” Once Laochra Busan is established, the club has plans for outreach projects in schools across the Busan metropolitan area aimed at teaching Korean children how to play Irish sports and educating them about Irish culture.
For Gaelic football enthusiaists, amateur sporting status is a point of pride. There are over 2300 GAA clubs in Ireland alone, even the smallest community will have itself a GAA club. Each GAA club is largely economically self-sufficient; its community fundraises and hosts events in order to raise cash for the club. Laochra Busan Club Secretary, Aoife O’Connor, stresses that “all the players’ families get involved, like the mothers or sisters, in Club life.” The feeling of togetherness and community spirit that the GAA promotes in Ireland is so sorely missed by the Irish Diasporas that GAA clubs have sprung up all over the world.
As the name suggests, Gaelic football’s roots are Irish. Predating soccer, which Gaelic football is often compared to, its first recorded game was in 1527. There are some inherent differences between Gaelic football and soccer; in the former sport, Gaelic soccer allows players to limited use of their hands, boasts 15 player per team as opposed to soccer’s 11 and is played on a larger pitch, to name a few.
If you’re interested in joining Laochra Busan, the club’s first training session is scheduled for 11 a.m. July 2nd at, Dadae Middle School, 945, Sahagu, Busan, 604-823. Don’t be put off if you’ve neevr played before. In true GAA spirit, anyone is welcome to attend the training sessions no matter what their fitness ability, and the teams already boast a number of players new to the game. The first few training sessions will focus on getting members’ fitness up to scratch and teaching basic skills. Later training sessions will focus on refining the skills needed to contest and win tournaments. If you don’t think playing Gaelic football is for you, you can get involved in Laochra Busan GAA’s community in a different but equally important way — the club needs cash in order to buy equipment such as kits and balls. Help your local GAA club plan fundraising events, or simply coming along to training sessions and matches “where heroes put on short shorts” to cheer on your local club’s players. Be a part of bringing the community spirit that the Irish GAA is renowned for to Busan.
Laochra Busan are currently looking for sponsors, if you are a local business that would like to sponsor Busan’s first Gaelic football team please contact the club’s president Peter Bonner, 010-8344-1410 & email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Join Laochra Busan GAA’s facebook group here.