Algerian team welcomed with celebration
A crowd received the team on the streets of Algiers. The players paraded in an open car. The country’s president wants the Bosnian coach to stay.
Algiers – The people of Algiers, the capital of Algeria, gave their national football team a warm welcome this Wednesday afternoon (2nd), to thank them for their performance in the FIFA World Cup Brazil. For the first time ever, the team made it into the round of sixteen, but wound up losing to Germany 2 to 1 during overtime in Porto Alegre, last Monday.
The city streets were decorated with the national colours and flags of all sizes hanging from the balconies and facades of buildings. The crowd awaited the players, who greeted the people from atop a bus prepared for the occasion.
The vehicle was painted with the colours of Algeria, the players’ names, and the slogan: “One, two, three, viva l’Algérie.” The team left the Algiers Airport around 3:00 pm and cruised the streets for two hours.
On arrival, the team was welcomed by hundreds of fans and by authorities such as prime-minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Sports minister Mohamed Tahmi. Sellal invited the players to attend an “iftar” later on, i.e. the breaking of the Ramadan fast after sunset.
The team’s captain Madjid Bougherra said he and his teammates “are proud to have accomplished their mission in Brazil, by making it to the World Cup’s round of eighteen for the first time in history.” From the start, this was the stated goal of the Algerians. “Even though we are tired from the trip, the Algerian people’s reception has given us insurmountable strength; thank you Algerians and long live Algeria,” the captain said.
Defender Carl Medjani, in turn, said that he was “amazed” at the reception, that it will stay in his memory, and vowed: “this adventure is only the beginning for this great team.”
At Place de la Concorde square (formerly called May 1st), the final stop along the way, families arrived two hours early in order to wait for the team. Flag-wielding fathers and mothers with their children were there to have a close look at the athletes they now call “national heroes.”
Despite the bad weather, the scorching heat and the Ramadan fast, Algerians took to the streets in throngs, whereas usually, at this time in the afternoon, the city’s streets are empty, for people go inside to escape the heat and to keep silence, given the religious period.
It is worth noting that it is summer this time of year in Algeria, which has 70% of its territory covered by the Sahara Desert, where temperatures are extremely high. Besides, during the Ramadan, the month which began last weekend, Muslims – the vast majority of the Algerian population – fast from sunup to sundown.
Armed with their tablets, cell phones and cameras, the national team fans did not miss the chance to register the moment they called “historic” and “fabulous.”
The fans created choreographed sequences at each of the spots the parade passed through. The streets of Algiers hosted a show as multitudes sang slogans in support of the national team, but most of all to the Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic. According to the Fifa website, at the airport, the coach was met with shouts of “Allahu akbar, Halilhodzic” (“God is the greatest, Halilhodzic).
It has been an “unforgettable” day, said a spectator, who hopes the team will do well again in the future, especially at the Africa Cup of Nations due next January.
Later on, the team met the country’s president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. “You have represented Algeria with pride,” he stated. He also met separately with the Bosnian coach and the chairman of the Algerian Football Federation (FAF), Mohamed Raouraoua, and called on Halilhodzic to keep coaching the team.
“Vahid must stay with us. This is a great team we have,” Bouteflika said. The coach smiled and replied: “It was not easy, but we must keep the pace. Thanks to hour game, Brazilians became endeared to us.”
Halilhodzic’s contract with the Algerian national team is about to expire. He has been on the job since 2011. Neither the coach nor the FAF chairman have gone on record about the future, but the specialized press mentions France’s Christian Gourcuff as a potential successor.
The fans, however, have launched a campaign on social media asking the coach to stay.
The “Greens,” as the team is known, will be back in September for the qualification round to the 2015 African Cup, whose final stage will take place in Morocco.
*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum with information from the ANBA Newsroom