Algeria’s win and Palestine

Algerian star dedicates World Cup success to the Arab world, ‘especially to Palestine’

2014 FIFA World CupAlgeria’s qualification to the knockout round of the 2014 World Cup is historic. On June 26, after a late equalizer against Russia, sending them home on Aeroflot, Algeria clinched its spot in the round of 16, finishing second in Group H. This will be the first time a North African team has advanced to the knockout stage since 1986. And with Nigeria finishing second in Group F, two African teams will play in the next round of World Cup action for the first time ever.

It’s not just a football game. There was a tweet in Arabic from the leading Algerian player, attacking midfielder Sofiane Feghouli, dedicating the victory to Palestine.

The message can roughly be translated to, “Thankful to God that we forty million Algerians and millions of Arabs have advanced. We gift all of the Arabs with this win, especially the people of Palestine. Thank you.”

The message has been retweeted over 2,200 times.

In other words, Feghouli dedicates the team’s successful run through the qualifying stages to the Arab world and, in particular, the people of Palestine.

There is a story to tell about Palestine and Algerian football. It’s not the odd Palestinian flag that you find among Algerian fans – its everywhere. The players, the fans, and the Algerian people never miss an opportunity to raise the Palestinian flag in these events. Its a way of expressing solidarity and saying – this is your national team too.

This warm gesture comes from one of Algeria’s stars. His early goal in Algeria’s opening match against Belgium was the first time Algeria had scored in the World Cup in 28 years. Despite not scoring since then, his ability to set up scoring chances and to assist along the wings during crucial counter attacks helped push Algeria on to the next stage.

On June 26, after the late equalizer against Russia, Algeria clinched its spot in the round of 16, finishing second in Group H.

Interestingly enough, Algeria is set to face Germany on Monday, June 30, in a match that weighs heavily on the emotions of many football fans.

During the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Algeria kicked off its first-ever World Cup qualifying match against heavy favourites West Germany. After pulling a surprise upset against the Germans that earned them international recognition and support, they went on to lose to Austria and rebound with a close win over Chile. Algeria was tied for first place in its group.

The final between West Germany and Austria had been fixed. 

Sadly, Algeria never advanced to the next stage. The final qualifying match of the group between West Germany and Austria, which happened the day after Algeria’s last qualifying match, had been fixed. After the Germans took an early lead in the tenth minute of the game, the two teams passed the ball without any purpose, having realized that a 1-0 scoreline in West Germany’s favour would advance both teams and send Algeria home.

Of course, football fans across the world protested and the Algerian national team petitioned FIFA to nullify the results. But the score stood. West Germany, whose impressive win-streak had been cut short by the Algerians, and Austria, who knew better than to doubt the skill and speed Algeria brought to the field, moved forward.

FIFA instituted a new rule to keep this kind of footballing crime from happening again. The final two qualification matches in each group have since been played simultaneously.

To those with ties to either side, to those who care about fair play and respect, and to those who just want to see a fiercely dedicated Algerian squad repeat what their countrymen accomplished thirty-two years ago, Monday’s match will certainly be an exhilarating one.

For now, just let Feghouli’s sentiments ring in your ears.

By Sani Kishawi, Sixteen Minutes to Palestine, edited for this publication

 

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