CAF Politics Aside, Algeria is Here to Win

From the moment that Riyad Mahrez's ball has hit the back of Nigeria's net, fans of Algeria are in a massive celebration. From a small village in Algeria, hundreds of thousands with pyro in Algiers or the madness in Paris, even in a vast city like Cairo, one can no longer ignore or evade them. 

There is a rumour that any Algerian that will come to the stadium could enter the game only by presenting a passport. This fact is yet to be confirmed by CAF, but it seems that in Algeria someone took it seriously as so many Algerians arrived. Everywhere you look, there will be someone with an Algerian shirt or a flag.

By Thursday at 9:00 PM, 28 full flights from Algiers to Cairo landed in the Egyptian capital, along with dozens of buses and, according to estimates, five military helicopters from the Algerian army.

"This is our time," said Nourredine, an Algerian fan in the team's last training session on Thursday. "Everything worked for us this tournament. We had a difficult year, demonstrations, a real revolution in Algeria. We changed the government after 20 years. A lot of Algerians think they deserve it. We're the best team in the tournament!", he explains to BabaGol enthusiastically.

The Algerians celebrate with such madness that during the Algerian finalist celebrations, about five fans died. At the press conference before the game, coach Belmadi said a prayer in their memory and said: "We want our fans to celebrate, but do it with respect and discipline. Just as they went out to demonstrate every Friday", he said.

Algerian fans are everywhere in Cairo (Photo: Uri Levy)

Algerian fans are everywhere in Cairo (Photo: Uri Levy)

All set for the Battle of Cairo

Cairo is packed and ready. Security at all championship facilities is particularly heavy. Checkpoints, road blocks, everything is interpreted. In the final training of Algeria, nearly 200 fans managed to cram themselves into a tiny gallery at the Petro Sport Stadium in eastern Cairo. There were all kinds of Algerians. Children, old men, women with babies, few who came straight from the airport and sang loudly, with their suitcase still in their hands. Outside the gallery there were about 200 policemen.

The Egyptians do not take risks. In advance, they announced that the gate-closing time for the media would be five hours before the game. For the fans, there will be four hours. These times can be changed.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the CAF Assembly met with Gianni Infantino to discuss the future of African football and to approve a number of decisions, including the African Women's Championship from 8 to 12 teams. Besides, from the 2019-2020 season, CAF clubs competition will feature only a one-game final in a neutral ground. This decision was accepted with great criticism by clubs and commentators. 

One of the most critical decisions about the final was to replace the referee. The South African referee, Victor Gomes that was supposed to officiate the last game, was replaced by Alioum Alioum and the Cameroonian. The reason is yet to be clarified. Ahmed Ahmed, CAF President, has evaded questions and provided no logical reason for the fact that less than 48 hours for the final, the referee is replaced when faced the media.

Alongside these, the politics of CAF are also boiling. Since Issa Hayato, the Kaffi presidency, his successor Ahmed Ahmed, has been able to lose control of the working forces. Vice President Amajo Pinnick has been sacked as part of changes to be made for the arrival of Fifa's representative in CAF, Fatma Samura in August.

Distracting the attention from the football, a day before such a final, for real politics of CAF is wrong.  It's a final that can see Algeria win AFCON for the first time in 29 years, a finale that can see a nation erupts worldwide after a year of protests. Tonight, 21:00 Cairo time, millions of eyes in Algeria, in Africa, in Paris, in the world will focus on the International Stadium of the Egyptian capital. It's the AFCON 2019 final.