Algeria

Home 2008-09 – Le Coq Sportif

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img_1812Algeria's players celebrate with fans after teammate Yahia scored a goal against Egypt during their World Cup qualifying playoff soccer match in Khartoum

 

The country

Occupying a massive chunk of land in North Africa, Algeria is, as of 2011, the largest nation on the continent following previous record holder Sudan’s division into two entities. Not that Algerians can utilise the majority of their vast territory for anything useful though as some 80% of the country lies within the scorching sands of the Sahara Desert.           Instead the majority of the 40 million strong population cling to coastal ares where they’re far less likely to succumb to misfortunes such as sand in their shoes, sand in their hair, sand in their eyes and death.

Ethnically, most Algerians identify as being of mixed descent via the intermingling over the centuries of invading Arabs and the indigenous Berbers.  More recently, French influence and language also permeated the local culture when, in 1830, a bullying France invaded Algeria, confiscated the economy and kicked over all their sandcastles. The subsequent occupation lasted until 1962 when Algerian rebels successfully expelled the easily startled French military by simply raising their voices.

In football terms, Algeria are one of Africa’s powerhouses having qualified for the World Cup finals four times. At the last tournament in Brazil the Desert Foxes – named for their habit of tipping over opposition dustbins the night before a game – reached the knockout stages for the very first time, where they pushed eventual champions Germany all the way before succumbing 2-1 in extra time.

Actually, Algerians have something of a bone to pick with the Germans.   In 1982 the North Africans were making their World Cup debut in Spain and, in one of the competition’s great upsets, stunned the then West Germany 2-1. Algeria would ultimately exit at the group stage, but only thanks to some despicable Teutonic skulduggery whereby the Germans and Austrians, knowing a 1-0 win for the former would see them both through at the Algerians’ expense, all but lay down for a siesta in the Spanish sunshine upon reaching the desired score after just 11 minutes.*

In recent years the Algerian Football Federation have become far more proactive in making overtures to the vast Algerian diaspora in France. Indeed, 16 of the 23 man squad at the 2014 World Cup were French born which makes you wonder who they might have recruited had they spread their net a little earlier. The likes of Karim Benzema, Samir Nasri and, most famously of all, Zinedine Zidane are all of Algerian stock but plumped for Les Bleus. Given these players’ respective tendencies to blackmail teammates, throw diva-quality strops and bludgeon Italians with their forehead during a World Cup final, perhaps this isn’t as lamentable as it seems.

*One positive thing to come out of this scandal was FIFA’s decree that henceforth all concluding group games at the World Cup be played simultaneously.

The shirt

The fortunes of French sportswear company Le Coq Sportif have been decidedly mixed over the years. Prominent back in the 1980s, they even supplied the kit for Argentina’s 1986 World Cup winning side, including the now iconic Maradona 10 shirt. Sadly at the back end of the millennium the brand found favour with Britain’s native chav population, regularly adorning the tracksuits of the kind of family where the daughter is called “Beyonce”, the dog “Tyson” and the family therapist “Mr Kyle.”

Somewhere in between the “athletic rooster” still chucks out the occasional footie shirt such as this neat Algerian offering. This design was worn during the successful 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, most notably in the 1-0 play off win over hated rivals Egypt that sealed a place at the finals.

Above the F.A. log sits a single star representing the country’s sole African Nations Cup triumph from 1990, when they won on home soil. The featured name and number is that of left back Nadir Belhadj who spent two seasons in the Premier League with Portsmouth, a statement that seems a tad surreal now given the club’s rapid plunge though the divisions.

 

 

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