'Friday the 13th' of Algerian Football

Last week was a tough one in Algeria.
A terrible plane crash near the capital Algiers, saw the death of 257 people, after a wing of a transport military airplane caught fire, and led to the horrific disaster. The country’s president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika has declared 3 days of mourning in honour of the casualties and their families. But the tears haven’t stopped there. 

While most of the country’s big events were put on hold, the Algerian Cup semifinal between JS Kabylie & Moloudia Algiers has took place as planned, on Friday the 13th. Kabylie was the host for this encounter, but due to the Algerian FA requirement, a semifinal venue should contain 20,000 seats at least. Therefore, Kabilye went to ‘host’ the match in Constantine, in eastern Algeria, instead of their local at Tizi Ouzou. Chahid Hamlaoui Stadium in Constantine, is also home for CS Constantine, whom their fans had fights with Mouloudia’s fanatics earlier this season. The local crowd, who did not had any interest in the game, attended the ground to pay back Mouloudia fans for past clashes. Kabylie, the team was ‘hosting’ the match, was not a side in the discussion, while things got out of hand. Drastically. 

In the stands a huge brawl was ignited, and until the referee understood it and have put the game on hold, people got injured. The game was brought to a halt as a huge brawl broke out in the stands. That led to a supporter running onto the field to beg to referee to halt the game until the trouble was rectified. The country’s Civil Protection took dozens of injured casualties to the close Ben Badis Hospital following the angry scenes.

When the game got renewed, the mess continues. Constantine’s fans, that again - their team wasn’t even playing - began to throw rocks on Farid Chall, Mouloudia’s goalkeeper. 

Eventually, order was resumed and it was Kabylie who had the nerves to go through a penalty shootouts, after a goalless draw, but the real number from this game was 104. 104 injured football fans in a cup semi final. 

The sad thing about the violent incident, is that it wasn’t the only one. On the same day, a league game between Mouloudia d'Oran and Chabab de Belouizdad was halted 12 minutes early after supporters threw projectiles onto the turf before a pitch invasion threatened the safety of the players.

On Monday, According to the AFP, Algerian authorities have vowed to tackle this stadium violence, which caused over 100 supporters that were injured in the past weekend, prompting the Algerian Ministry of the Interior to reveal new "measures and firm decision”.

Stadiums in the North African nation are regularly the site of clashes between rival supporters. Tragically, in 2014, Cameroonian Albert Ebosse was killed in 2014 after being hit by a missile thrown from the tribunes, while playing with the same JS Kabylie.

Ironically, on this same Friday of violent eruption in the Algerian stands, it was the anniversary for one of the Algerian, African and world football most notable legacies - the first Algerian national team foundation.

On April 13th, 1958, twelve Algerian footballers playing their professional football in France, have left their clubs and congregated in Tunis to create an Algerian national team - the FLN (Front de libération nationale) national team. At the time, Algeria wasn’t an independent country yet, and the team began to travel the world in order to promote the Algerian national identity and lobbying the Algerian independence from the French colonial occupation. Back then, FIFA threatened sanctions against any national team that played against the FLN team. Nevertheless the team have played  90 matches against the likes of China, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, USSR, despite the actions France held to stop its activity. The FLN team had a major part in promoting Algerian national identity in times that it was not even ‘legal’, and that a civil war was running in the country. 

Instead of celebrating this anniversary of such a cornerstone in the Algerian game, violent incidents of fans were what decorated Algerian football reality on April 13th, 2018.

Algeria is a great & passionate football country. Football is part of its roots and its national identity. The level of talent and and amount of people who play the game in Algeria, is huge. The local scene is rich with diverse and eclectic crowds, impressive choreographies & pyrotechnics in the stands, and much more. Yet, as in many other places in world of football, violence is still major part of the game’s culture.

In order to know more about the fascinating world of Algerian football, follow Walid Bylka & Maher Mezahi.