Cameroon’s top female football (soccer) star has opened an academy to teach the sport to girls. The academy is the first of its kind in Cameroon, where football is still largely considered a boys’ sport.
Women’s Footballer Raissa Fedjio urged a group of 80 girls aged five to 16 to have the confidence to become professional players.
Nicknamed the ‘Indomitable Lioness,’ Fedijo is helping to drill the young footballers at Yaounde’s Ahmadou Ahijo Stadium. They are hoping to be selected to join the Rails Football Academy, which opened on January 4.
Fedijo said they must be ready even to play against men football stars like Cameroon striker Samuel Etoo, or the French national team’s Kylian Mbappe.
Among the girls who traveled from all over Cameroon for tryouts is 16-year-old Christine Wotie from the western town of Dschang.
“I am there because we have heard about the academy created by the international football player called Enganamouit Gaelle,” she said. “We are there because we try our best to be like her. You have the opportunity to be an international [player]. Maybe if we are selected we can stay there and work hard to be like her.”
Gaelle Enganamouit, a 27-year-old football star, never had any formal training. But she said having a football academy for girls will develop Cameroon’s women players into world stars.
“The foundation has as its objective to promote women’s football so we can see the impact.” she said. “In 2016 here with the African Cup, I was so impressed. I said I have the opportunity to open this foundation, I can do it.”
As a young girl, Enganamouit had an early passion for football. Her family rejected her love of the game because football was considered a boys’ sport.
But, Enganamouit’s determination took her to play not only at the national level but also with a Norwegian club.
Ghislain Bebben, one of the coaches selecting players for the academy, said most of the girls show talent.
“I was surprised today and I am very happy because I trained with my young sisters and all those girls have good talents,” he said. “So, I think when Gaelle put that academy, I think those girls will receive good formation and they are going to have good talents.”
Rails Football Academy manager Frank Happy said they will choose 18 players for each age category. He said they’ve prepared a training program that does not clash the girls’ academic progress. Formal education, he said, will be vital not only in the girls’ lives but also to their careers as professional players.