CF Akbou was founded on International Women’s Day in 2010
Renowned for training methods and title wins
Social and charitable work in the club’s DNA
From the earliest days of organised women’s football in Algeria in the mid-90s, Bedjaia, 245 km east of Algiers, has been a stronghold for the sport and its regional development alongside cities such as the capital Algiers, Oran and Constantine. The province has a large number of women’s football clubs – proof that local people are just as interested in the women’s game as the men’s.
Of all those, one has succeeded in uniting the region in passionate support and gained a following all over the country: CF Akbou Women’s team. In a symbolic gesture, the side was established on 8 March 2010, International Women’s Day, and has gone on to achieve plenty of success in the country. It is also well known for its approach to coaching (which has led to the club being nicknamed “Ajax Women”), and how it invests in the training and development of local girls to ensure they become part of Algeria’s footballing elite.
Speaking to FIFA.com, president and founder, Omar Merabet said, “At the start, our goal wasn’t to become one of the best clubs in Algeria. We just wanted to give young girls in the city, from the age of six, the same chance to exercise that boys have. We’ve never charged anyone for membership, for example. The club arranges equipment for all players, from the U-6s to the senior team.”
Thanks to the club’s policies, Akbou have been very successful on the national stage, with the U-13s, U-17s and U-20s winning every title there is in Algeria, and a large number of players making the Algeria women’s national team. Additionally, a lot of their players also study at university.
"Social work is in the club's DNA"
Asked about the club’s social contract, Merabet said, “Social work has always been at the heart of the project. It’s in the club’s DNA.” Certainly, CF Akbou considers itself more than just a football club. In the 13 years since its establishment, it has become well known for its endless commitment to working for the community. The club has its own buses and an ambulance, which they make available to the local community in times of need. They often host inter-provincial tournaments to entertain locals on Ramadan evenings, and they even hosted an international women’s futsal competition with the aim of building friendship between peoples, where players from Akbou competed against other from Tunisia, France, Canada, among other countries.
The club also puts its 82,000-strong social media following to good use, promoting fundraising appeals for sick or poor people, seeking medicines, posting information about missing people, reporting deaths, and much more to support the local community.
Showing that football unites the world
But its work goes even further than the community, proving yet again that it is more than just a football club. Another example of its contribution came when 10-year-old Sofiane was kidnapped in the neighbouring town of Tazmalt. The club put all its effort into helping to find the child, joining search parties and using its social media presence to spread the word. Then, when he had been found, safe and sound, Akbou players visited him with gifts and a donation for his parents to contribute to any possible treatment for the psychological trauma of being abducted.
In the cold winter months, the club has also assisted refugees coming from other coastal countries and Syria, giving them food and clothes, and arranging for the local authorities to open the social nursing house to them.
Thanks to its partnerships with local hotels and restaurants, the club often provides accommodation and food for visiting teams that lack funds, particularly at youth level.
On another occasion, coach Bouzid Tigrine sadly lost his life alongside his wife after an incident at home caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, leaving two children behind. The club organised a huge tribute, inviting people from all across the region, in order to raise funds to provide for the orphaned children.
In another case, two years after finishing a six-year stint at Akbou, Fatma Mizali suffered a serious injury, and the club covered her medical expenses as she was treated by Dr Ait Belkacem, a prominent surgeon for Algerian athletes.
CF Akbou, through its humanitarian actions, has proven that providing youth training, participating in society, acting charitably and developing players can all go hand-in-hand with top-level football. It has shown that the beautiful game really does bring people together and that Football Unites the World.