A Tribute to Mustapha Zitouni

Born in Algiers on October 19, 1928, Mustapha Zitouni was a professional football player who played for both France and Algeria during his career. His firm stance for Algeria during the country’s struggle for independence made international headlines and went down in history as an example of selfless courage and patriotism. Mustapha Zitouni passed away on January 5, 2014, at the age of 85, having suffered with ill health for some time.

Zitouni played the position of defender for three French football teams – Stade Français, AS Monaco and AS Cannes – and was chosen as part of the French squad for the 1958 FIFA World Cup which took place in Sweden. At that time, Algeria was fighting against France in an effort to gain independence, and Mustapha Zitouni, along with nine other team members, decided to support these efforts. Motivated by patriotism, the footballers secretly left France, traveling through Italy to arrive at Tunis where they reportedly met with an official from the Front for National Liberation (FLN). The FLN football team was formed and a request was made to FIFA for recognition.

Due to the fact that FIFA still considered Algeria to be governed by France, the football association denied the request for recognition, and reportedly even went as far as banning Morocco‘s Football Federation when that country’s team, the Atlas Lions, played a game against Algeria. All the Algerian players who had left France were suspended by FIFA, shutting the door to them returning to their football careers in that country. This generated even more publicity for the fight for independence from France.

The new FLN football team won their first match against Tunisia with a score of 5-1 and many countries were quite willing to play against them despite the non-recognition of FIFA. Between May 1958 and December 1961, the FLN team played 83 matches, of which they won 57 and drew 14, with a cumulative total of 349 goals.

When Algeria succeeded in gaining its independence from France in 1962, the FLN team became the country’s national team – one that was founded on the firm foundation of loyalty and patriotism of Mustapha Zitouni and his fellow players.