The Algerian men's soccer team has once again been the African champion after 29 years, but its 1-0 victory against Senegal in Cairo, Egypt, is much more than a sports victory. Inspired by the protests calling for a political change in Algeria in progress since February, the success of the selection has strengthened the protesters.
A Friday of great emotion
On Friday, July 19, 2019, it will go down in history as the night Algeria won the African Cup of Nations again. It was also the twenty-second consecutive day of demonstrations since the self-appointed hirak (which in Arabic means “movement”) that began in February to oppose the then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika assuming his fifth term in office.
Although Bouteflika resigned in early April, demonstrations have continued throughout the country, as well as in France and Canada, where there are large populations of Algerians. Now, protesters call for radical political change and reject the old guard of politicians associated with Bouteflika.
The night of the final of the championship, the whole country was aware of what was happening in Cairo. Baghdad Bounedjah scored in the first minutes, and Algeria maintained its leadership until the final whistle, when millions of Algerians took to the streets to celebrate with fun the long-awaited title. Madjid Zerrouky, a Le Monde journalist, published this video from the heart of the celebrations in Algiers:
– Madjid Zerrouky (@madjze) July 19, 2019
Let's go for a long night of madness.
An inspiring performance
The Algerian team showed great determination to remain undefeated in the championship, with 13 goals in favor and two against. People who had demonstrated on the streets during the previous five months had inspired them to win for the country, as midfielder Adlène Guedioura said in the AtlasTimes digital newspaper:
– AtlasTimes أطلس تايمز (@Atlas_Times) July 20, 2019
The victory of the national team is due to the people's insurrection movement, says Adlène Guedioura.
The journalist Hamdi Baala repeats Guedioura's words:
On s'habitue au bruit de l'hélicoptère mais pas à la révolution qu'il surveille. The 22e vendredi de manifestations a commencé à Alger et il est spécial: l'Algérie va aussi jouer la finale de la CAN ce soir. Et ça inspire. pic.twitter.com/Rcs5d11Ee3
– Hamdi (@HamdiBaala) July 19, 2019
We have become accustomed to the noise of helicopters, but not to the revolution they watch. The twenty-second Friday of demonstrations has begun in Algiers and it is special because Algeria is also playing the African Cup of Nations final tonight. And that inspires.
“No to the dictatorship and yes to the African Cup of Nations,” another young Algerian tweeted:
– Houda Henniche (@HoudaHenniche) July 17, 2019
“NO” to the dictatorship.
And “yes” to the African Cup.
Protest songs, such as “La liberté” (La Libertad) and “La casa d'El Mouradia” – unofficial demonstration man written in 2018 by football fans in which they criticize the four mandates of Bouteflika – were sung in the streets the day of the final and again when the team won. During the final, the songs of the fans sounded from the stands of the Cairo stadium. A follower in the middle of the crowd recorded it:
– Mena (@menaaaly) July 24, 2019
As I have been out, let me share some of my favorite moments of the African Cup of Nations final, the best are Algeria fans singing The House of El Mouradia.
Paradoxically, the Algerian authorities have actually tried to take advantage of the success of the football team to soften the mood of the protests in the country. They took 4800 fans on 28 planes to Egypt for the final. Many Algerians clearly perceived the ruse:
L'Algérie est championne d'Afrique ma, mais le combat continue ✊ pour la liberté!
> Le chants des supporteurs le jour de la finale: «Dites-leur, vous ne nous entuberez pas avec le ballon. Dites-leur: on arrachera la liberté quoi qu’il en coûte ». #Hirak #Algerie # CAN2019 pic.twitter.com/1OqGjt9eAV
– Bellahsene Nabil (@BellahseneNabil) July 22, 2019
Algeria is champion of Africa???, but the fight for freedom continues.
On the day of the final the fans chanted: “Tell them:‘ They won't fool us with the ball. ” Tell them: ‘We will get our freedom at any cost. '”
Yazid Ouahib, editor-in-chief of sports at the El Watan newspaper, said that “the authorities had to reap the rewards (of victory) but are deaf to the demands of the demonstrations.” It is a form of corruption that will not have any effect on the protest movement because people have demonstrated since February 22 that they are not kidding. ”
The victory of the people
The success of the players in the African Cup of Nations is a victory for all Algerians, which inspires the majority to move forward and reform the country.
– Azeddine SALMI (@zsalmi) July 20, 2019
A second star in (the shirt) while we wait for the second republic.
#HIRAK #ARE #EXCELLENCE YOU #PEUPLE # ALGÉRIEN #UNI#Merci #LesVerts #Merci Pour # CAN2019
Sans # Oublié that Peuple est plus that you never reach faire aboutir sa révolte jusqu’à #Satisfaction des #Revendications. # VOUSDÉGAGEZTOUS#NousNeSommesPasDupes pic.twitter.com/R787WD3EvX
– KARIM (@ kingman20142019) July 23, 2019
Hirak, his Excellency, the Algerian people united thanks the Greens (the Algerian football team) for the African Cup of Nations 2019.
Without forgetting that the people have the determination, today more than ever, to continue with the uprising until their demands are met. They release us all, we are not stupid.