Back in 1997, the International Club in Almancil opened its doors to kids from all nationalities who wanted to play football. From these humble beginnings, the club has grown and now has children from Belgium, Romania, England, Holland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Portugal and many other countries playing in its teams. If their trophy cabinet is anything to go by, this non-profit making organisation is a definite force to be reckoned with!
The club is for both adults and children to enjoy themselves and meet socially, and allows children from all kinds of backgrounds to play football in a professional, but relaxed environment.
The 220 children, who train and make up the five teams, range in age from nine to 16 years. There are eight qualified trainers and coaching takes place three times a week, with matches played at the weekends. The team for 12-year-olds and under, play seven-a-side, on half a pitch, and both boys and girls play together.
From 13 years old onwards, the boys go it alone on the full sized pitch. For obvious physical reasons, girls are not allowed to play with the boys after 13 and, as yet, the club does not have an all girls team. This is not through lack of interest from teenage girls – it is due purely to the lack of changing facitilities for the girls to use.
As the club is non-profit making, it relies on donations from companies and the public. The money that they get from their 300 or so members – just 2.50 euros a month – goes towards buying strips for the teams, boots and shin pads for the players, sports materials, lunches for the teams on away games and wages for the coaches. This means that all children, regardless of their family’s financial situation, can play with proper equipment and clothing.
Following an application to the government last year, the club has been awarded a certificate, which means donations are 100 per cent tax deductible (normally only 30 per cent). Residents of Almancil have organised fundraising events to help the club and, coupled with other donations, the club now has an astro-turf pitch for the teams to play their home games on. But there is still a long list of facilities that are needed to make the club an even better place.
Despite the lack of facilities, the club plays in the children’s Algarve football league and, at the moment, is in the top spots in many of the different age group divisions. A tribute to the excellent training at the International Club is the fact that players who have left at 16 have gone on to further their footballing dream, some nowtrain with Arsenal and Benfica, who treat any of the clubs injured players, in return for being given first choice on promising new stars. The club is open to all children, no matter where they live in the Algarve, and is situated in Almancil on the left-hand side of the main road to Faro. Any children or sponsors who are interested in getting involved with the International Club football teams can find out more information from José Fernandes on 964 264 081 or tel/fax 289 398 591.