Algeria celebrates World Cup entry after tense match

Last Updated: Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 10:31

Algiers: Sudan staged a security clampdown on Wednesday as Algerian fans celebrated victory in a tense match against Egypt which clinched Africa`s last place in the 2010 World Cup finals.

Thousands of Egyptian and Algerian fans flew in for the play-off in Khartoum which Algeria won 1-0. Police feared a repeat of violence around Saturday`s match between the two rivals in Cairo, when 20 Algerian fans were injured and three players suffered cuts after Egyptians stoned their team bus.

Jubilant Algerians waved flags and fireworks, and drove through the streets of the Sudanese capital cheering their first qualification for the World Cup finals in almost quarter of a century.

"There is no happiness in the world more than this," said Algerian cook Farid Nimeiri working in the hotel hosting his national team.

Fans said it was a tight game and they would now apply for visas to South Africa, which will host the 2010 finals.

"Technically speaking it was a very poor game ... because there was a lot of pressure on the players on both sides," said Farouk Eouaou who came from Dubai for the match.

Algerian defender Madjid Bougherra said the team had won "justice." Coach Rabah Saadane said he was exhausted but was happy the mission was over.

At least five fans were stretchered away with minor injuries during celebrations, witnesses said.

Westerners and U.N. staff were urged to stay well away from the stadium as 15,000 extra police kept tight control over 35,000 supporters in Khartoum`s Al Merreikh stadium.

Heavily armed security forces fired tear gas to chase away thousands of Sudanese fans waiting outside, witnesses said.

Egyptian fans filed quietly out of the stadium and supporters said they were surprised and impressed with the security operation.

Residents feared violence could follow the match but police stationed themselves throughout the capital.

Egyptian Information Minister Anas el-Feki was quoted by the MENA state news agency as saying on television that President Hosni Mubarak was personally following events and that planes would be sent to Khartoum to fly fans home as soon as possible.

Cairo Violence "Uncivilised"

Algerian Minister of National Solidarity Djamal Ould Abbes called the Cairo violence "unacceptable and uncivilised", and called on the governing body to take action.

"FIFA must suspend Egypt for one or two years from any match," he told Reuters. "Shame, shame, shame."

In Khartoum ecstatic Algerians were kept well away from Egyptian fans after some had made threatening gestures at rival supporters. In the stadium, Algerians taunted their opponents with posters saying "Misrael", a mixture of the Arabic words for Egypt and Israel.

Hospital sources said fans had been treated for minor injuries as scuffles broke out before the match.

The bitterness between the two nations over the Cairo violence spilled over into officialdom with Algeria`s minister of sport calling it "a wound ... for the Arab world."

At Sudan`s Presidential Palace, the head of Algeria`s football association publicly rejected a peaceful overture from his Egyptian counterpart, walking away from Samir Zahir who proposed to kiss him to put the troubles behind them.

In the Algerian capital, thousands of people spilled out into the streets as soon as the final whistle was blown.

Traffic came to a standstill at one roundabout as people jumped out of their cars and danced in the street.

Algeria last qualified for a World Cup final in 1986, and in the years after was racked by a conflict between Islamists and government forces which killed thousands.

Bureau Report



First Published: Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 10:31

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