Football – Algeria’s Most Popular Sport
With the first Algerian football club – Club des Joyeusetés d’Oran – established by European settlers in the El-Derb suburb of Oran in 1894, football has long been the country’s most popular sport. By 1897, a second football club – Club Athlétique d’Oran – had been established in Oran, and it wasn’t long before other football clubs came into being in a number of Algeria’s cities and towns. The recent official opening of the Algerian Football Association’s (FAF) new headquarters, by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, is an indication of just how far the sport has come in this North African country.
Constructed with the support of FIFA’s Financial Assistance Program as part of its “Goal” project, the opening of the headquarters marked fifty years of football in the country, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Algeria’s independence. Mr Blatter was accompanied by Algeria’s Minister of Youth and Sport Hachemi Djiar, along with CAF President Issa Hayatou, and FIFA Executive Committee members Hany Abo Rida and Mohamed Raouraoua (who also serves as FAF president), as well as national team coach for Algeria, Vahid Halilhodzic.
In his address, Mr Blatter noted that the opening of the new headquarters based in Algiers was a great day for Algerian football, African football and FIFA. He went on to say that the Algerian Football Association is very well-structured and the new headquarters, which are practical and magnificent, reflect the renewal of Algerian football.
The Algeria Football Federation was established officially in January 1963, although it had been functioning since 1958. Algeria has participated in three FIFA World Cup Finals – Spain in 1982, Mexico in 1986 and most recently in South Africa in 2010. The Algerian national team experienced much success in the 1980s with talented players such as Rabah Madjer, Salah Assad and Lakhdar Belloumi. As a result of close historic ties between Algeria and France, quite a number of Algerian players, or players of Algerian descent, have featured in the French Leagues and the French National Team. There are more than forty football clubs in Algeria with regular inter-club games keeping football fans entertained and inspiring young Algerians to participate in the country’s most popular sport.