‘Je Suis’ football academy fights for the rights of Coptic Christians
At 22, Mina Bendary founded the ‘Je Suis’ football academy for Coptic Christians who were refused admission to other Egyptian football clubs on account of their faith.
Mina Bendary has always dreamed about being a professional football player, but due to his Coptic Christian name, he was discriminated against by football coaches. On many occasions, Bendary was asked to play under another name or was simply denied a game because of his name.
After many failures, Mina decided to establish his own football academy for Coptic Christian boys who find themselves in a similar situation.
The academy, called ‘Je Suis,’ is in Alexandria, Egypt, and it accepts Christians boys and men aged between 15 to 27, who cannot otherwise play in professional football clubs, on account of their religious beliefs.
The name ‘Je Suis’ means ‘I am’ in French. Bendary said he chose the name “to send out a message that nothing is impossible.”
According to the members of the team, ‘Je Suis’ offers an excellent opportunity to show the world that there are talented football players among Coptic Christians. Without the club they could not otherwise demonstrate their sporting skills to others due to religious discrimination on the sports field.
90 per cent of the club’s football players are Christian while the remaining 10 per cent are Muslim. Muslim players are not discriminated against in the club. Bendary insists that he is opposed to any type of discrimination and that all are welcome at their football academy.
In Egypt, it is not only on the football pitch that Coptic Christians are persecuted. They are discriminated against in education, in state institutions and are frequently the victims of attack by radical Islamists.
The Christian Coptic religion dates back to about 50AD when the Apostle Mark is said to have visited Egypt.