Nigeria Must Take Advantage Of Egypt's Hate For Algeria Come Sunday
By Iwedi Ojinmah 7 months ago
When Nigeria and Algeria line up to face each other in the Afcon Semi-Final on Sunday the similarities between the two teams is amazing. Except for the fact that the Arabs have a real goalkeeper and the West Africans don't, and that the Foxes have a megastar in Mahrez, the teams are relatively identical and even on paper.
Nigeria, however, will have one big advantage when they take to the field - namely the support of the host nation and the millions of her fans. As they did against South Africa they will be cheering for our birds.
They are doing this not because they love Nigeria but because they disliked South Africa more and actually hate Algeria even moreRelated: Rohr Breaks Silence In France, Speaks On Returning To The Super Eagles And Love Of His 'starless' Team
Egyptian fans cheering for Nigeria against South Africa
I know hate is a strong word but there is no other appropriate one to use to best describe the lingering venom between the two countries. It started football wise but has infected their entire relationship.
HOW IT STARTED
In 1989, Egypt beat Algeria in a decisive qualifying match for the 1990 World Cup. Player Ayman Younes later said, "It was a battle, not a football match." Algerians felt the Tunisian referee was biased; fans rioted in the stands. An Algerian player attacked an Egyptian fan. Algeria's Lakhdar Belloumi was convicted in absentia for a glass attack which blinded Egypt's team doctor in one eye. He remained subject to an Interpol arrest warrant, although he claimed goalkeeper Kamel Kadri had been the true perpetrator.
Algeria's home match against Egypt in the 2010 qualifiers took place in June 2009 without any incident being reported. Rather, to cool down animosity between the two countries, the Egyptian team was received with flowers at the airport. A diplomatic agreement, with personal intervention from Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, included lifting the Interpol warrant on Belloumi and compensating the Egyptian team doctor.
Both teams prepared for the match away from the pressure of intense local fans; Egypt in Oman, Algeria in France. Algeria coach Rabah Saadane wept at a press conference, expressing fear for his family's safety in the event of defeat. 5,000 security personnel turned Blida into a "virtual military base".Minors were barred from the stadium unless they had a ticket. Algeria won 3–1.
All seemed well but when the Algerian team arrived in Cairo on Thursday 12 November, the bus carrying the team to its hotel was stoned, breaking windows and injuring three players and one official. Egyptian media alleged that the attack had been staged by the Algerians to have the match moved to a neutral venue. The police escort of one van and several motorcycle outriders was criticised as insufficient.
On Friday 13 November, FIFA declared the match would go ahead as scheduled, but "asked the Egyptian Football Association and the highest national authorities through the relevant ministries to provide written guarantees that confirm the implementation of the necessary additional safety and security measures at any time for the Algerian delegation."Lemmouchia and Halliche played with bandaged heads. Team doctor Michel Gaillaud said the players were mentally unfit and the match should not have gone ahead. Egypt won 2-0 setting up the need for a tiebreaker.
Ech-Chorouk the Algerian Newspaper reported that six Algerian fans were killed in the chaos that followed the match while Egypt's Health Ministry only reported 20 Algerians and 12 Egyptians injured. There were attacks on Egyptian interests in Algeria after the match. EgyptAir's Algiers bureau was broken into and a "serious" amount of damage done and the office was closed due to health and safety concerns. Stones were hurled at other buildings. An Egyptian plane sent to Algeria to "rescue" citizens was refused permission to land.
The teams then met in a one-game playoff to decide the qualifier. To determine the match venue, each team selected a country other than their own (Algeria selected Tunisia and Egypt selected Sudan). After Sudan was drawn in a lottery on 11 November, the Al Merreikh Stadium in Omdurman was selected by FIFA as the venue for the play-off.
Reuters reported that 15,000 police were mobilised for the match. Embassies advised their nationals to avoid the stadium area; government offices and schools closed early. Scuffles leading to minor injuries were reported.
On Monday 16 November, Al Jazeera reported that Algerian fans had stoned a bus carrying the Egyptian players from a training session, without causing injury. The following day, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir hosted a function in the Presidential Palace in Khartoum, in which Algerian Football Federation head Mohamed Raouraoua snubbed his Egyptian counterpart, Samir Zaher.
Each team's fans were allocated 9,000 tickets, with the stadium capacity reduced from 41,000 to 36,000; there were fears of ticketless fans congregating outside. Although the countries' own blocks were strictly segregated, many Algerian and Egyptian fans purchased tickets allocated to the home Sudanese. Locals estimated the actual attendance at up to 50,000.
The rest as we know is history. Algeria won 1:0 behind a 40-minute strike by Anthar Yahia and went to the Wolrd Cup at the expense of Egypt and ever since the hate may have been contained but it certainly still exists till today waiting to boil over at the slightest prompt.
That incident may have been 10 years ago but the anger still simmers and for Algeria to win Afcon on Egyptian soil will not sit well with the hosts and they must take advantage of this and play to the Egyptian gallery and soak up their support. It may sound unfair, but remember all is fair in love and war and make no mistake this is a war and Nigeria must treat it as such.
Sunday is fast approaching and we all shall soon see.