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Algerians who will go to the ends of the earth to support their team

Text by Malika KERKOUD

Latest update : 2010-06-09

They are spread far and wide, but Algerians from all over the world are doing their utmost to be a part of their country’s historic run at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa .

The “Fennecs” (Arabic for desert fox and the nickname of the Algerian national team) and their forthcoming World Cup adventure have become a national obsession. Algeria’s play-off victory over Egypt and its subsequent qualification have changed people’s lives.

To have the honour of watching their team, they have postponed weddings, given up holidays and even moved abroad.

Nuptials on hold

Souhil A., from the suburbs of Algiers, was due to tie the knot with his fiancée in June. But then came Algeria’s World Cup qualification, and Souhil went out and bought a flight to South Africa.

"It’s been 20 years since Algeria last qualified,” he explains. “We might not live to see it happen again. But if I don’t get married today, I can still do it tomorrow. Luckily, my fiancée understands completely and has accepted my decision to go.”

Another wedding – with a big screen at the reception

Such is the fervour that for one wedding planned on June 23, the day Algeria will play against the USA, a big screen will be installed to show the match during the festivities -- assuming any of the gests turn up at all.

“The wedding will be interrupted so that the guests can watch the game,” Mohammed Kaaboub tells FRANCE 24. “So for two hours both the men and the women at the wedding will mix together for the length of the match.”

A double fly-by

Hicham and Amine are preparing for their pilots licence at the “Fly Training Service” flying school in Johannesburg. They will be lending their support the way they know best.

As part of their training regime, each of the two friends will fly the 272 km from Johannesburg to Polowane, where their team will be playing Slovenia on June 13, in a Cessna 172 trainer, covered with the Algerian colours.

“A unique journey to a unique event,” they tell FRANCE 24. “The Algerian flag will be flown in South Africa by land, sea and air.

From the Caribbean to Johannesburg – 28 hours flying and 5,000 dollars

Rochedi D. is a lawyer of Algerian background living on St Thomas in the Caribbean. He doesn’t know a lot about his country of origin -- but he is determined to be at the heart of this historic event.

He says: “Algeria’s qualification has united all the Algerians in the world, and has given us all a sense of belonging. I’m not even thinking about the huge distance that separates the island of St Thomas and South Africa, nor about the 5,000 dollars that my ticket costs.”

Self-exile for the sake of a ticket

Ben Rezka Mohammed Al Ouinidi had a moment of madness when Algeria qualified, and volunteered to be relocated by his employer Schlumberger to Saudi Arabia. And all for a ticket to South Africa, which would have been much more expensive for him had he stayed in Algiers.

“Since we qualified I just don’t know what I’m doing any more,” he says. “I have organised my entire life around Algeria’s participation in the World Cup.”

From Dubai to South Africa with her parents’ blessing

Hanane Lucila, who comes from a very traditional Algerian family, has been dreaming of going to South Africa. She works in Dubai for a big banking group and has been following the Algerian team’s progress avidly on Internet.

Hanane has had to sacrifice all her savings and annual leave for the trip, and, more importantly, had to have her parents’ blessing.

“My mother has encouraged me to live this exceptional moment in our country’s history to the fullest,” a delighted Hanane tells FRANCE 24.

Date created : 2010-06-09