Origins of The Desert Foxes
The national football team of Algeria is managed by the Fédération Algérienne de Football. Known by the nickname of “Les Fennecs” (The Desert Foxes), the team qualified in two consecutive World Cups – in 1982 and 1986. The head coach is Jean-Michel Cavalli, and the highest FIFA ranking achieved by the Algerian football team was number 30 in September 1993.
The Algerian national football team had an unusual beginning in 1958, under somewhat surreptitious circumstances. Mohamed Boumezrag, at the time a leader of a section of the National Liberation Front of Algeria who was based in France, attended the 1957 World Youth Festival where he made contacts that would prove to be helpful in the formation of the Algeria national football team. Boumezrag recruited ten well-known French-based professional Algerian players and, with the help of the contacts he had made, arranged for them to secretly travel to Tunisia where, on 13 April 1958, the Algerian national team was established. This move was met with mixed reactions from football circles with football fans in France being devastated that ten of their best players had “disappeared”. Upon unraveling the mystery of the missing footballers, FIFA declared that any team playing against the Algerian team would be excluded from the World Cup. The French government even arrested other players who attempted to leave the country to join the Algerian team. Overcoming the obstacles put before them, the Algerian national football team went on to play 91 matches over the next four years in countries such as Vietnam, China and Iraq and in the process gained international recognition as players and ambassadors for their country.
Some critics were of the opinion that the ten players who left France to form the Algerian national football team had sacrificed promising careers in international football. The general consensus amongst the ten abdicating team members was that they did not regret their actions. The satisfaction of taking a stand for the independence of Algeria far outweighed any potential accolades or money that an international career may have brought to these intrepid football players.
Algeria, as a member of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), competes in the African Cup of Nations, African Champions League and the CAF Confederation Cup. The ten CAF members that compete in the UAFA organized Arab Nations Cup are Algeria, Comoros, Egypt, Djibouti, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia, Tunisia and Sudan.
So next time you are relaxing in front of your TV watching a football match, if the Algerian team is playing, give a thought to the courageous men who started the team that has come to be known as The Desert Foxes.