BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Nigeria’s Super Eagles may likely profit from the long term sporting feud that exists between Egypt and Algeria as Nigeria face Algeria in the semi-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations at the Cairo International Stadium on Sunday night.
Already, the Super Eagles appeared to be the adopted home team for the Egyptians after their painful exit via a late goal by South Africa. Incidentally, it was also by a late goal that Nigeria applied to eliminate South Africa, as if avenging for the Egyptians.
The Super Eagles were greeted with deep rooted chants of Nee-ge-ria! as the Nigerian team arrived Cairo from Alexandria earlier in the week for their last Wednesday grudge-filled match with South Africa. Nigeria did a good ‘job’ for the Egyptians by eliminating their eliminator.
Now it is another grudge laden encounter with Algeria. For 41 years since the Algiers ’78 All Africa Games, there have been strained sporting relationship between Algeria and Egypt and this had often degenerated to violence and diplomatic row.
At the height of the tension, Egypt, in the same Group A with hosts, Algeria, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire initially refused to send a team to the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations in Algeria until they were threatened with an outright ban as later happened to Nigeria which pulled out of the !996 tournament.
Egypt later sent a second string side to the tournament, leaving at home, their stars, who were later to feature at Italia ’90 World Cup.
Incidentally, both Algeria are Arab countries in North Africa and separated by Libya. Football matches between them are fiercely contested and often lead to violence and sometimes necessitating taking the fixtures to a neutral ground as was the case in a 2010 World Cup qualifiers which had to be taken to Sudan.
As a way of easing tension with the Algerians at the on-going Africa Cup of Nations, Egyptian ticketing company Tazkarti published a statement to help Algerian fans that attended the country’s quarter-final game against Cote d’Ivoire. The statement included some rules such as every fan should have their fan ID in during the period of the African tournament whether in Cairo or any other city.
“There is a Tazkarti outlet at Cairo International Airport which will help the fellow Algerians to get the fan ID and the tickets easily,” Tazkarti’s statement revealed.
“To facilitate for our Algerian brothers [only], owing to the narrow time and the large number of fans arriving at the airport, the fans can attend the games with the passport and the match ticket only,” the statement added.
The Egyptian feud with Algeria started in 1978 at the All Africa Games in Algiers. During a riot that followed a Libya versus Egypt match, Algerian fans reportedly aided the Libyans prompting Egypt to withdraw midway into the All Africa Games, even though leading on the overall medals’ table.
Later in 1989, Egypt eliminated Algeria at the final stage for the qualification for 1990 World Cup in Italy. It was a bloody battle as the Algerian felt that the Tunisian referee for the match was bias.
An Egyptian player, Ayman Younes reportedly remarked: “”It was a battle, not a football match”. In Egypt, Algerian player, Lakhdar Belloumi was convicted in absentia for glass attack which blinded Egypt’s team doctor in one eye.
Tension has not abated ever since. A defeat of Algerian teams is always a source of joy for a typical Egyptian.
TALE OF EGYPT-ALGERIA FOOTBALL FEUD
- 1978: Egyptian team recalled part-way through 3rd All Africa Gamesin Algeria after brawl following win over Libya. Algerian spectators joined in on Libyan side
- 1989: Egypt beat Algeria to reach Italia 90. After the match, midfielder Lakhdar Belloumi allegedlyblinded the Egyptian team doctor with a bottle. He remained subject to an Interpol arrest warrant, although he claimed goalkeeper Kamel Kadri had been the true perpetrator.
- 1990: Egypt initially refused to send its team to African Nations Cupin Algeria. It later benched its main squad at home and sent a second string squad which expectedly crashed out at group stage.
· 2009: Striker Hossam Hassan and his brother Ibrahim Hassan, banned indefinitely by FIFA after a brawl following a club game in Algeria