French towns and cities are gearing up for a noisy night as the national team, as well as Algeria in a separate game, get set to play their round-of-16 World Cup matches on Monday night.
Police have been mobilized in force across the country, while European Affairs Minister Harlem Désir made an impassioned call for calm following a number of incidents last Thursday after Algeria drew 1-1 with Russia to go forward to the next round.
“We call on everyone to be serene in the way we celebrate victory,” he told LCI TV on Monday. “At the same time we are not going to be naïve about this. We will not let [a repeat of last week’s violence] spoil what should be a party atmosphere.”
France plays first, at 6pm Paris time (GMT+2) against Nigeria. Later in the evening at 10pm, Algeria – which has never progressed so far in a World Cup – will play Germany.
West Germany infamously denied Algeria progress beyond the group phase in 1982 when they played out a lacklustre game with Austria, ensuring both European sides got through to the next round at Algeria’s expense.
Both in Algeria and in France, fans have been glued to their sets, following the “Desert Foxes” (Fennecs) progress with intense interest and jubilation at their successes.
Simmering racial tensions
But in France, which has a population of an estimated 1.7 million Algerians and French citizens of Algerian descent, the North African country’s success in this year’s World Cup has not been without tension.
When Algeria drew 1-1 against Russia on Thursday to qualify for the next round, France experienced an eruption of joy from its many Algerian supporters at home.
Not all of it was peaceful. With simmering racial tensions and ingrained hatred of the police among France’s immigrant population, there were confrontations with police and some 74 people were arrested.
This was especially the case in the south-eastern city of Lyon, where on Monday the regional head of security Albert Doutre said an extra 500 officers had been drafted for the night.
It is a bigger police presence than for most national holidays including the New Year and the July 14 “Bastille Day” celebrations.
‘A minority of troublemakers’
Doutre insisted that last week’s violent incidents were sparked by “small groups” and did not represent the majority of peaceful Algerian supporters.
“There is always a minority of trouble makers,” said Harlem Désir. “We will make sure that they are caught and prosecuted.”
Any victory for France and Algeria in Monday’s matches will be met with another wave of euphoria, although bookmakers are giving much better odds of a French victory over Nigeria than an Algerian win against Germany.
But if both teams win, they will go on to face each other in the quarter-finals, an event that would require another huge police presence.
On Monday, anti-immigration far right leader Marine Le Pen called for an end to double nationality and questioned why so many in France were supporting a foreign country (which also happens to be an important former French colony).
Le Pen said she would not be watching either match. “Politicians have better things to do,” she said.
Date created : 2014-06-30