The Warrior Mindset: Meet the Algerian American Football Team!

photo credit: Lupy Persiani

“to put Algeria’s name on the world stage”

AFI had the opportunity to speak with Abed Belkous, Manager of the Algeria American Football Team (AAFT). Initially gathering Algerian American Football players living in France, the AAFT is building a foundation for the sport in Algeria. Their immediate goal is to represent their country and continent in the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden in 2015.

The state of Algeria is a country in North Africa on the Mediterranean coast. It’s capital and most populous city is Algiers. Algeria is a semi-presidential republic and consists of 48 provinces and 1541 communes. With a population exceeding 37 million, it is the 34th most populated country on Earth. Abed Belkous and the rest of his team hope to make those 34 million all new American Football fans!

Algeria map

The goal of this Q&A with Abed Belkous is to provide insight on the growth and current state of American Football in Algeria, as well as study the challenges and bright future for American Football in the North Africa!

 1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your experience in American football?

My experience in football, is not huge. I started playing in 2005, in a sport-study program, I eventually got my degree. I then left to go to Canada and I continued to play American Football while in school. Today, I attend the University of Montreal.

2. When was the Algerian team founded? Who had the idea of ​​the Algerian football team?

Me, my brother and a friend had this idea because through our network of contacts we knew a number of American Football players of Algerian origin. The idea of Algeria American Football Team came in November 2011. This is when we first tried to make real plans and figure out how many American Football players we would be able to put together. This is still before becoming active on social networks. The first practice we had been on June 9, 2013 and the second on June 29. June 30 we had our first friendly match in Paris, France. I would say the team was officially established after the friendly match on June 30, 2013.

AAFT

2. How was your organization built/formed?

Basically, we built it through social networks. We tried to find players around the world and people who would be interested in and Algerian team. After we found many players and people who were interested of being a part of the movement, we now need to find coaching, makes ads, and try to develop our name around the whole American Football world.

 3. What is the story behind the founding of your organization?

The story can sound a little bit cliché, but, as an athlete representing your country is one of the biggest dreams you can have for your sport. American Football is growing across the world and teams are starting in more and more places. So, we’re just trying to ‘surf on that buzz’ a little by founding our own team. We want to give a chance to all Algerian people to know that we are here and trying to put Algeria’s name on the world stage.

 4. How many active athletes/players/coaches/participants are in your organization?

Now we can count more than 60 members in our organization. We have around 40 to 45 players but we are still looking for more players to add to our team. We have a good coaching staff with great experience in American Football. There are many others that always help us during training and aid us in finding places to practice and generally help our organization.

5. Who has brought together all the players to  practices and who has aided you in the Paris region?

I contacted the potential players and called on social networks through AAFT page and the various clubs in the world. Then I set up a roster to make it known that there’s actually a project that is taking place. The Paris region is the easiest place to access players and coaches, and we have had the help of the excellent Franck LaCuisse, club president of the Red Devils, who has , which aided us in having practices and facilities, as well as helping accommodate us with all the necessary hardware for our players.

6. If I understand correctly, the AAFT is currently composed of players and coaches who live in France.

Correct for the most part. We also have players in Canadian universities and coaches residing overseas, but the majority of our staff and players are currents residents of France.

7.  Must players of the AAFT be born in Algeria and/or Algerian citizens?

We still do not know the official rules for IFAF nationalities and citizenships. Team Algeria have many players with dual nationality, but it should not be difficult to obtain the paperwork if required. It should be less of a problem for players born on Algerian territory, but for those born abroad, we will put these questions to the IFAF.

8. What are some of the other challenges your organization has faced?

I think one of the biggest challenges we have faced is to be able to gather people together at the same time for our practices and camps. To develop this sport in Algeria is tough as well. There are no clubs or federation, and it’s a struggle to inform the Algerian people about our team. American Football is an unknown sport in Algeria.

9. What other sports are very popular in Algeria? You have to compete with them for athletes and money?

The main sport in Algeria is first soccer. It takes a huge place in the country with extreme enthusiasm, then follows basketball, handball, athletics, judo, and volleyball. Algeria is very diverse in terms of sports. We know we cannot compete with these sports, but this is not our goal. Our goal is for Algeria gain knowledge of our existence and helps us to establish ourselves on the international scene. This will we will be a wonderful thing for us. The Algerian people are proud of whatever discipline its people fully support.

10. Do you receive any support from governmental organizations?

No. Unfortunately we don’t receive any government support because we are not recognized yet. We are working in order to get in touch with our Ministry of Sports and Culture. We are sure that soon as they will know our team and what we are doing for the country. Because sport in Algeria is very important and take a big place in the country, we hope they will give us the support and put us in the best position possible.

11. What are some of the challenges you foresee for American Football in your country?

To develop American Football in Algeria we need coaches and players with experience who are going to teach American Football in Algeria. First, our coaches and players will go to Algeria and hold flag football practices and clinics for kids. We would like start this in the biggest cities in Algeria (Algiers, Oran, Annaba, Tlemcen). We would like to establish clubs in those cities and they will compete in tournaments and games. This is our plan for the future where we will be able to create an Algerian American Football League.AAFT 1

 12. Regarding your plan to create clubs in Algerian cities and home and clinical practices in Algeria, when will you start this plan?

The plan is expected to begin sometime in 2014, once the action plan is put in place with the government and the different administrative regions. We will focus on our major cities and first.

13. Are there many NFL & NCAA American Football fans in Algeria?

We know of a few that know of American Football and the NFL’s Super Bowl but we can’t tell you how much exactly they know or if they like it a lot, ha-ha! This is because American Football can be a weird sport to watch when you don’t know the rules and how the game is played. But we tell people, ‘as soon as you know the rules, everything comes very easily.’

 14. Have you established a schedule? I.e. when does your season begin and end?

We haven’t established a schedule yet because right now, many of our members are in holidays. We are working on having a mini-camp in September followed by a scrimmage and friendly games in October. After this, most of our players and coaches will be back with their normal clubs for their own seasons.

15. Do your teams have access to the proper equipment and facilities?

Currently, every player supplies their own equipment: helmet, shoulder pads and leg pads. Concerning the facilities we’ve been using in France, we’ve have a lot of contact with clubs in the region, and they have provided us with fields and other things we may need like bags, balls, cones. On this point, we can say we are very grateful we can practice in the best conditions possible.

16. How has your team fared in its recent games?

We have already had full practices and our first scrimmage against a very good selection of players from Paris, namely the Ile-de-France region. We lost 12-0.

 17. What are your organization’s short-term (1-3 years) and long-term (3+ years) goals?

(1-3 years)

  1. Find more players. After being in Algeria to coach American Football, we need to find more players, coaches, and staff members, to host more camps to find players in the country.
  2. Be more competitive. The fact that the IFAF decided to have an African team for the 2015 IFAF World Championships is a blessing, so we will do anything in our power to get our ticket for 2015 IFAF Sweden World Championships. First we need to get to the preliminary round. After that, anything is possible!

(3+ years)

  1. The long-term goals, like we mentioned earlier, is to develop the sport in Algeria. We need to find facilities, and have programs for youth American Football. We need to put leagues in place around the country so there can be a national championship.
  2. We believe American Football in Algeria can be a great way to help the young people in Algeria. Algeria has, for the most part, a very young population and we would like to help them become successful. We believe football can help them, and maybe one day there we will help by putting football in schools and build school programs. This is our main goal.

 18. How does Algerian law affect your ability to development the league?

When everything with the government is in place, laws help to develop sport in Algeria. For us, we need to become recognized get to the government support. This is the most difficult part.

19. What are the colors and mascot for your team?

Our mascot is the ‘fennec’, the national emblem of Algeria in all sports. The colors of our teams are the same as our flag; green and white with a red crescent and a star. ‘Kassamen’ is our national anthem. How proud it would be to hear this hymn before a future game!

20. Are there any other things you’d like to let the world know about American Football in Algeria?

We would like to let the world know that Algeria has interesting potential. We hope to show the world ourselves as soon as possible so we can have our name in the IFAF list and be listed as an emerging American Football country. Plus, we are looking for any and every help possible, and hope that people who love American Football would also love to help us. We are really proud that our team is on its way and that there is an African team that will be represented in the 2015 IFAF World Championships. We at Algerian American Football have a warrior mind-set, and we will never give up. So be ready to count on us in the future.

If you would like to contact or follow the progress of the Algeria American Football Team:

Abed Belkous (Manager): [email protected]

Facebook: Algeria American Football Team

John McKeon
John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.
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