“Join us, football is more than a sport. It’s a great way to learn team spirit, determination, sacrifice, discipline, respect, and courage!”
W have been following different initiatives from all over the African continent the last few years, and as African football continues to grow it now has its first club in French-speaking West Africa: The Dockers of Treichville in Abidjan.
Olivier Rival of “Le Petit Monde du Sport” interviewed Eric Kouakou, one of the founders and creators of the Dockers, about this exciting new organization in the Côte d’Ivoire!
How was this new adventure has started?
In 2002, during the military and politic crisis that our country, Ivory Coast, has faced, we had decided to distract a little the youth from our district from all this with some new sport activities. That’s how with only three footballs we have tried to conquer our city. With the help of a few people who had studied in the USA, Canada or Europe; Mathias Kouassi and I have started to share our passion for football. Eleven years later, after many efforts and with a new generation of players, the Dockers of Treichville are born!
Do you have links with the Ivory Coast American Football Team, the reunion of European expats from Ivory Coast origins that organized a game last year?
Yes we have very good contacts with the Ivory Coast American Football Team that we support with our actions here. Our main contact there is Marc Olivier Niambe (from the French team the Coyotes of Anzin) who started all this. I have personally received coaching courses (USA Football certification of tackle and flag football Level 1) paid for by the Ivory Coast Team Côte d’Ivoire. Regularly we receive here visits from some of their players and coaches who give our group some of their experience.
How does football is seen by the people around here?
First football is not well known here, It is seen as an aggressive, brutal and expensive sport with no future in Africa. With few role models (Amos Zeroue of the Pittsburgh Steelers being the exception), lack of infrastructures and difficult access to gear we have a hard task. We can’t even insure our players as football is not on the official list of sports that can benefit of an insurance contract in Ivory Coast. For the moment we have only the little support of our municipal authorities, especially from Mr. Tozan the major of Treichville.
Soccer is king here, how can other sports gain a little recognition?
Soccer is king yes, being easily accessible to all with no expensive equipment needed. The National team has not won any big competition with the exception of the 1992 CAN (Africa Cup of Nations) while other sports have met bigger successes. Without any media and political recognition the other sports are going their way and get better results than soccer.
What is the current state of the Dockers?
We are just starting as a flag and tackle football team. We have about 40 players of all ages but we have an average of 20 players at each practice. Practices take place Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with sometimes video meetings Wednesdays. After some initial difficulties, we can now play on a mostly sand covered field in a primary school at the CITE DU PORT 2 in Treichville.
We also organize practices at more than 12 kms from there at the Riviera Golf in the city of Cocody on a small grass field. The goal being to recruit new players in that other district of Abidjan to form a second team, the first local opponent of the Dockers.
The people of Abidjan is getting used of seeing us parade around town with our balls and gear. We have imported all the equipment we own : A first aid kit, sport bottles, six footballs, five helmets, two pairs shoulder pads, five pairs football pants with pads, about thirty jerseys and shorts. We have also found and bought cleats here. We have additional six helmets and five pads that should arrived here shortly. The biggest issue being the fact there is no importers of that kind of products in the country. Sometimes we order gear overseas and when we receive it it’s not the size we were hoping for!
Who are your coaches?
Stéphane M’Boua (former Jokers of Paris) who has a lot of experience takes care of the offense. Brahma Diop handles the defense with my help for the DBs. We are looking for more volunteers to manage our association the Amicale Sportive du Football Américain de Cote d’Ivoire (ASFACI) if possible people who have been in contact with our sport a way or another.
Our president Claver Tia and administrative manager Barthélémy Kouakou are helping us a lot at the practices. To the people of Abidjan: “Join us, football is more than a sport. It’s a great way to learn team spirit, determination, sacrifice, discipline, respect, courage and many other values!”
Have you received some help from clubs and organizations overseas?
For the moment we have done everything with our own money with no external help. But we have regular contacts with Ali Ben El Cadi, the new chairman of IFAF Africa and his vice-president Mo’men Naiem. We communicate too with Dan Miles, head coach of the St. Petersburg Tide from the PSAFL and general director of TUSAAFSS INC, with Richard MaClean the President of Football Canada, with Chris Piché of Riddell, with Alain Mallochet from the Highlanders of Epinal in France , with Walter Sabbioneda from the IAAFL (International Amateur American Football League) and with Europlayers.com.
If people want to join you, what should they do?
The registration is free for everybody. We make a medical check, fill a personal information file and assign the new player to a coach. We give him some files and videos about football to discover our sport and after a few practices we propose him playing positions. We always try to meet members of his family to have the best possible relations between the club and the community.
They should contact us at:
Do you have projects for the next months?
It’s a little early for big projects. Our first objectives are to have more members, to teach football to more players, to be able to have two different teams and organizations. We have to train referees and buy more equipment. For games and events the members of the European diaspora with the Team Ivory Coast are in a better position at this moment.
Do you follow the other African football initiatives?
Yes and there is a lot of them! Egypt is maybe the more advanced with its Egyptian League of American Football and several clubs formed. But there is a lot of other ones : Morocco with the Association Nationale Marocaine de Football Américain (ANMFA) (National team with members of the European diaspora and flag teams in Morocco), Algeria with their National Team (another reunion of the European diaspora who will play a new game next month in Switzerland vs the Knights of Neufchatel), Tunisia with l’Association Tunisienne de Football Américain (another Diaspora National team), the two teams of the Nigerian Institute of American Football (Titans and Warriors), the Kenyan American Football Club ‘Nyati’ in Nairobi, the Green Vampires in Kampala, Uganda, the Mountain Gorillas in Kigali, Rwanda, the Black Bisons of Accra, Ghana, the Cameroon American Football Association and the Football Development Program in South Africa managed buy Coach Theo Waters.
A final message for our audience?
Yes to all the people involved in the promotion of football in Africa; we need a lot of courage, patience and determination. We have almost nothing on our Continent so we will have to do huge sacrifices to help the future generations discover our great sport!