Angola hosts today and for 21 days the CAN competition. Algeria qualified for it and for the South African World Cup of this year after three long and exhausting qualification rounds. We still remember the last two games against Egypt in Cairo and Sudan, and the popular, media, cultural and politic reactions they caused.
The Algerian team members have been celebrated by the population and president Bouteflika as if they had won the WC. Their achievement was indeed one of the most important of last year, and the joy they brought to the Algerians (in Algeria and abroad) had no limits.
Algeria is now mobilised and living for its team and it looks like any other affairs and issues are postponed until the last game of Algeria in the WC.
The Fennecs prepared the competition in southern France. The preparation was unfortunately disturbed by the usual problems: Mehdi Lahcene’s joining or not the team, the bonuses and incentives, Puma’s black&white jerseys, and some important players’ injuries. And the Algerian newspapers didn’t help as they spread the rumours about Saadane’s resignation, Raouraoua’s conflict with the players, etc.
Anyway, the team is in Angola now and is ready for its tomorrow’s match against Malawi (Mali and Angola are the other teams in Algeria’s group) which will unfortunately be played at 2:45 pm (the only game played at this time!). This despite Gaouaoui’s withdrawal because of an appendicitis, and Saifi and Meghni who are still recovering from their injuries.
There will eventually not be 3000 Algerian supporters like expected (a number which pushed some Egyptian “journalists” to call for sending 4000 Egyptian fans), but only 50. Nevertheless, we can expect them to make enough noise to encourage the 11 players on the pitch.
The first event of the CAN was the attack on the Togolese national team by Cabinda‘s secessionist rebels. The CAF’s (and FIFA’s) decision to maintain the competition wasn’t a surprise, but even the Togolese government decided that their national team will participate despite the injuries of many players. Hoping that this is the last bad news around this competition.
Good luck to the Fennecs. Hope we will qualify to the second round and challenge Cameroon, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. A recent poll showed that 90% of Algerians want us to play against Egypt again. I personally don’t. I also hope that we will see less referees’ mistakes which are the standard in the African competitions.
UPDATE: The Togolese government decided to withdraw from the competition and get the team back home, but the team still wants to play. A Togolese plane is on its way to Luanda and we will see if the players will take it.