Friday, November 20, 2009

One match. One goal. One helluva celebration.

N.B.: This is about football (a.k.a. soccer). I'm not a fan, but this was big. Just so you know.

Wednesday 18th November 2009: Play off match between Egypt and Algeria to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa next year. Egypt was by far the stronger team as they have more experience than the newly formed Algerian team, but the under-dogs had played remarkably well in their group matches, and had they not lost the last match they would have automatically qualified. To make it all more interesting, the last match - which Algeria lost - was against Egypt the previous Saturday. (The match, played in Cairo, was tense, with the home team needing 2 goals to get to the play off and they made it in the last 30seconds of the match with what turned out to be an off-side goal, which the referee didn't spot.)

The play off was held in Sudan and supporters from both countries raced to get there in the 3 days between the matches. Now, I live in Algeria, so I have no idea how the Egyptians did it, but I can tell you how the Algerians did.

Sunday, with just three days to go, Algerian supporters gathered in the capital Algiers and held an impromptu rally, requesting that the President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, give them the airline tickets. Among the crowds' loud chants: 'Bouteflika, give us the tickets!'. Tickets to Khartoum cost 90,000DA (Algerian Dinars), which is more than 2months wages. The President knocked them back to a mere 20,000DA. Then Parliament went one step farther: they paid for all of the fans' tickets to Khartoum. In addition to this, visa requirements were dismissed. So, in just 3 days, thousands of Algerian fans took the five-hour flight across Africa to support their team.

The rest of the nation - and yes, I do mean ALL off the nation - decked themselves in the team colours (green/white), with loads of flag-themed accessories.

This is the Algerian flag, by the way.

Anyway, back to Wednesday night. I honestly couldn't stomach watching the match - I felt sick watching the last one, and I just couldn't face it again. Besides, pretty much the entire nation was watching - with TVs taken out into the streets for neighbours to watch together, and big screens put up in the major cities, so I knew that I'd find out the instant Algeria scored. And score they did. One goal towards the end of the first half. And that was it.

Algeria won and the entire nation erupted in cheers. Everyone spilled onto the streets celebrating the nation's first World Cup qualification in 24 years. I raced out with my family, to enjoy the celebrations, but I forgot to bring the camera! I did remember to bring my phone (thank God I also remembered the door keys!), but the photos aren't great quality.

Here they are anyway:

Notice the guy standing on the car window? Totally normal.

This crowd is nothing compared to those that gathered in the cities.

There were A LOT of flags around.

And there were loads of people on top of buses. It was ok, though, as they were (mostly) driving slow because of all the traffic.

It was a long night.

1 comment:

  1. That is so cool! I wish soccer was a bigger deal here in the US. We love our various sports, but no one in the US is nearly as passionate about any sport compared to other country's passion for football/soccer! So cool!