Algerians rally around Desert Warriors

Algerians say football is building a sense of national unity, as team heads into round of 16 against Germany.

    Algerians rally around Desert Warriors
    Algeria is the first team from the Arab world to qualify for the second round of the World Cup since 1994 [AP]

    Algiers, Algeria - Several days after Algeria's national football team qualified for the second round of the World Cup, the sound of car horns blaring in celebration continued to be heard across the capital.

    Last Thursday, Algeria made history thanks to a 1-1 draw with Russia, advancing for the first time ever to the round of 16. It was a major step forward since the last World Cup in South Africa, where the Algerian squad was sent home after the first round without scoring a single goal. 

    As soon as the game ended last week, a jubilant crowd, draped in Algerian flags, raucously celebrated in Algiers. "I have not seen such fervour and such explosion of joy since 1962 and the Independence [from France]," said Brahim, a 74 year-old resident of Algiers who only gave Al Jazeera his first name, as he held his grandson's hand on Didouche Street, in the middle of the crowd.

    Algeria will face off against Germany in Porto Alegre on Monday, in a game that has historical significance for fans of the Desert Warriors. In 1982, Algeria was ousted from the World Cup after then-West Germany beat Austria in a controversial victory that prompted game-fixing allegations. Three decades later, the incident has not been forgotten.

    Soon, we will no longer systematically mention the 1982 victory against the Germans, but we would rather talk about the 2014 exploit.

    - Amine Hattou, 35, film director

    "The new generation is looking for modern symbols and landmarks. The Algerian youth are tired of hearing stories about the legendary national squad defeating West Germany, then the greatest team in the world," said Amine Hattou, a 35-year-old Algerian film director, who described the tie with Russia as a watershed moment in Algerian history.

    "Soon, we will no longer systematically mention the 1982 victory against the Germans, but we would rather talk about the 2014 exploit," he told Al Jazeera.

    RELATED: In Pictures - Algiers World Cup fever

    According to sport journalist Abdelghani Aichoune, the enthusiasm Algerians display for football is linked to the poor cultural offerings available in the country. "Each single good performance of the national team brings rare euphoria" in a state where 70 percent of people are under age 30, Aichoune said.

    Algerians also expressed joy at feeling represented regionally and internationally. "We are among the 16 best national teams of the world. This is really prestigious," rejoiced Farida, 28, wearing the Algerian green and white flag on her hijab in triumph during the public celebrations.

    Like thousands of die-hard fans, including many women, Farida watched the game on a giant screen, set up in the Grande Poste office area, located in the city centre. As soon as the final whistle blew, she converged with her family to Audin Square, which was transformed into a dance floor.

    Algeria is the first team from the Arab world to qualify for the second round of the World Cup since 1994. Ten years after the end of the so-called "black decade" in Algeria, during which about 200,000 Algerians were killed, many are happy to re-establish a better image for the country.

    "With this qualification in the second round, Algerians have the feeling that their team and country are now known worldwide. One thing [that is] fundamental [to] the Algerian supporters is that they believe the image of the country is promoted by their national football team,"  freelance journalist Akram Belkaid told Al Jazeera.

    He added: "Algerians do not have many opportunities to express a collective joy. The political authorities are aware of this. That is why they allow at least people to gather in the streets during football event."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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