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November 18, 2009, 12:28 pm

Egypt and Algeria Bring Soccer War to Sudan


Egyptian soccer fans celebrated last Saturday in Cairo after their national team defeated Algeria to force a one-game playoff for a spot in the World Cup.

Updated | 3:02 p.m. My colleagues at the Goal blog have coverage of the result of today’s match — which Algeria won 1-0 to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in South Africa.

Original Post | 12:22 p.m. Ahead of Wednesday’s soccer playoff in Sudan between the national teams of Egypt and Algeria, to determine which nation will get a spot in next summer’s World Cup in South Africa, Reuters reports that at least 15,000 police officers have been mobilized to secure the stadium and prevent the kind of violence that erupted before and after last Saturday’s match between the two teams in Cairo.

As The Lede explained last week, Saturday’s game was played despite the fact that several Algerian players were injured before it by stones apparently thrown at their team bus by Egyptian fans. Algerians were enraged by amateur video, apparently shot during that attack, and a report from French television which showed blood-drenched players emerging from their bus with the rocks they said had been hurled at them.

The atmosphere in Algeria was not helped by the fact that after Saturday’s match, Reuters reported that 20 Algerian fans who had traveled to Cairo to support their team were injured in attacks by rival fans.

In response to the perceived injustice — and rampant rumors that some Algerian fans had been killed — Algeria has been in an uproar since last Saturday night.

While Algeria’s foreign ministry insisted that no Algerian fans were killed in Cairo, one of Algeria’s leading newspapers, Echourouk, posted this YouTube video on its home page — in which one distraught fan claimed to have witnessed his bother’s death.

An Algerian friend of The Lede watched the video for us and explained:

This is one of the videos that stirred the whole situation. Algiers has been paralyzed for three days now by youths taking to the streets and chanting for justice. The video shows an Algerian fan who happens to be a rapper (Reda City 16) — he’s quite well known in rap music circles. The video was shot after he came back from Cairo. He’s mourning his young brother and showing pictures on his cell phone. He says his brother died and that he witnessed his death. He is then interviewed by the Algerian daily Echourouk where he tells the story again of how the Algerian fans were attacked by some Egyptian fans in Cairo before and after the game.

This report from France 24 shows some of the damage done to Egyptian businesses in the Algerian capital by rioting fans in recent days:

In addition to that attack, The Associated Press reported that fans in Algiers had also “trashed Egypt Air’s local office Monday.”

As another France 24 report noted, the war between the fans has been conducted online as well. We saw evidence of this in the comments beneath our last post on the subject, where readers from the two nations attacked each other.

During the exchange of fire, one of our Egyptian readers sent us a link to a video posted on YouTube that supposedly showed the attack on the Egypt Air office in Algiers in progress. Another reader pointed us to this video, which appears to show Algerians in France clashing with police after their team lost Saturday’s match. On YouTube the video was accompanied by this note from the person who uploaded it:

Our brother Algerians who claim they are civilized and peaceful, setting fire and destroying public properties in Marseille, France after the match.

Egyptian fans also used Facebook to post videos — like this one, which begins with the words “YES WE CAN” — to encourage their team, known as the Pharaohs.

Not to be outdone, one enterprising Algerian fan posted this reworked version of a scene from “Braveheart,” which shows Mel Gibson giving a stirring speech in favor Les Fennecs (”the Desert Foxes”), which is what fans call the Algerian national team.

In response to the violence in both countries, France 24 reported that Ahmed Mekky, an Algerian-Egyptian rapper, composed this song to encourage brotherly feelings between the two Arab nations:

My colleague Jeffrey Gettleman is in Sudan, with thousands of fans from each nation, for today’s match. We will have his report on what happens on and off the field later this afternoon. My colleagues at Goal, The Times soccer blog, have more on the background and build-up to today’s match.

Update | 12:29 p.m. The anticipation for today’s match must have been unbearable in Sudan, because it looks like the game started a few minutes early. The action, now underway, is being streamed live on Fifa.com, the Web site of soccer’s world governing body. On The Guardian’s Web site, Paolo Bandini is live-blogging the match.

Update | 1:11 p.m. Algeria has taken a 1-0 lead in the 40th minute of the first half.

Update | 1:17 p.m. The score remains 1-0 in Algeria’s favor at half time. A blogger for The BBC described the goal this way:

Karim Ziani’s ball into the Egypt box bounces and falls nicely for Antar Yahia, who fairly leathers a right-foot volley in-off the crossbar. Stunning strike.

The Guardian’s live-blogger, Paolo Bandini wrote:

What a finish from Antar Yahia! It was really just another long ball forward from Karim Ziani - albeit a slightly more thoughtful, angled one from left-to-right - but it was allowed to bounce in the area and Yahia was unmarked at the back post, from where he simply crashed the ball off the crossbar and into the back of the net. No chance for El Haddary. Wild scenes here as the players celebrate right in front of their travelling support.

Update | 2:20 p.m. Algeria wins 1-0. The Algerians advance to next summer’s World Cup and the Egyptians are eliminated. Look for a report from Sudan by my colleague Jeffrey Gettleman soon.


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