Violence casts shadow over famous win

The Egyptian football association could face disciplinary action after FIFA announced on 20th November, an investigation into violence that took place before last weekend’s match against Algeria.

Around 200 fans threw stones at the team bus as the Algerian players arrived in Cairo, and four players were injured in the attacks.

Egypt won that game to force a play-off match in Sudan, where defender Antar Yahia become a national hero, scoring the only goal as Algeria won 1-0 and qualified for a World Cup for the third time in their history.

But celebrations have been marred by the row over the violence.

Some Algerian players are angry at Fifa for allowing Saturday’s game to go ahead, Khaled Lemmouchia told French newspaper L’Equipe:  “I can tell you that in our side, some players were pallid, others were like paralysed before the game. We are human beings, we have families, fears and joys, just like everybody and Fifa let us play in that context.”

Bloodied Algerian players in their hotel.

There’s a further twist as Egyptian press and authorities accuse the Algerians of lying about the violence and The Times reported that some in the country believe that it was Algerian fans that attacked the team bus in an effort to get the game postponed.

Diplomatic relations have become strained as a result of the controversy. Egypt has recalled their envoy to Algeria following reports of violence against Egyptian businesses in Algiers.

Resentment between the two countries began in the 1950s, as countries in Africa, including Algeria, battled for independence, Egypt was perceived as not caring about their cause.

Many Algerians will see Wednesday’s victory as revenge for a match in 1989. 

Again the match took place in a neutral venue. The atmosphere inside the stadium was fierce. Fans arrived several hours before the game and packed the stadium in Zambia.

The game was ugly and ill-tempered. Ayman Younis, an Egyptian footballer who played in that game compared it to a war: “On the pitch, it was very crazy; 11 fights between every player. Everybody forgot what the coaches had to say and just fought instead. It was a battle, not a football match.”

Egypt won 1-0. The Algerians accused the referee of bias and surrounded him at the final whistle. It took him eight minutes to leave the pitch safely.

Fans were incensed, climbing into VIP areas and throwing plant pots on to the pitch and seats and players started fighting at the end of the match.

But the most infamous incident happened at a post-match reception. An Algerian player, Lakhdar Belloumi attacked the Egyptian team doctor with a bottle, blinding him in one eye. Belloumi was sentenced by an Egyptian court but evaded arrest.

With a match between the two teams looming in June this year, Algeria’s foreign minister began negotiations to try and improve relations between the countries and the Egyptian team doctor agreed to drop the case against Belloumi.

But the goodwill looks to have been short-lived as the controversy surrounding the latest games has revived the tensions between the countries.