Hundreds arrested after Algeria victory

The Chronicle

Paris — French police arrested over two hundred people on Sunday following Algeria’s qualification for the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, which sparked scenes of joy as well as clashes with police in several large cities.

Riotous celebrations erupted around France, which is home to large Algerian-origin communities, after the Algerian football team beat Nigeria 2-1 in the semi-final. 

The interior ministry said 282 people had been arrested on Sunday night, “almost all” of them linked to the football match while some were detained on the sidelines of France’s national Bastille Day celebrations.

Fifty people were arrested in the French capital after clashes broke out between football fans and police on the Champs-Elysees avenue, which was littered with broken bikes and scooters yesterday morning.

There was also violence reported in Marseille and Lyon. After the final whistle, thousands of jubilant fans gathered in front of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, jumping and chanting “Long live Algeria.”

Many leaned out of car windows as they waved red, white and green flags, as police in helmets looked on. More than 200 people were disciplined for dangerous driving, Paris police said.

In the southern coastal city of Marseille, police attempted to stop football celebrations around the historic Old Port area where 15 000 people had gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks.

A few hundred fans of the “Fennecs”, as the Algerian team is known, managed to reach the harbour after skipping police barriers.

Officers ended up firing tear gas at fans who threw objects near the Porte d’Aix historic arch.

Eight police officers suffered minor injuries, local authorities said.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner yesterday congratulated police and firemen for their “speedy reaction and professionalism” in response to the problems . Of those arrested, 249 people were in custody yesterday.

Paris and Marseille are home to large communities of French people of Algerian origin, a legacy of France’s colonial rule in the gas-rich north African country. 

France’s far-right National Rally party condemned the unrest, branding the celebrations the “July 14 of shame”.

“Their victories are our nightmare,” party spokesperson Sebastien Chenu said yesterday. “Whenever there’s a match with Algeria… there are problems.”

Last Thursday, when Algeria defeated Ivory Coast to reach the semi-finals, fans went on the rampage in central Paris, looting shops.

On the same day in the southern city of Montpellier, an Algerian football supporter celebrating his team’s win lost control of his car at high speed and ran into a family, killing a woman and seriously injuring her baby.

France was rocked by six months of anti-government “yellow vest” protests from November last year which saw thousands of people arrested in some of the worst urban violence in decades. – AFP.

Meanwhile,  Gernot Rohr believes Nigeria will be stronger for their experience at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations after his side suffered a painful, last-gasp defeat to Algeria in the semi-finals.

Nigeria looked to be heading into extra time against a team that required penalties to overcome Ivory Coast just three days earlier, but Riyad Mahrez won the game for Algeria in the 95th minute with a magnificent free-kick.

Coach Rohr said the loss was “tough to digest” for his players but stressed the current crop of Super Eagles had the potential to become “very good” given time. “Our team is progressing well after the World Cup which wasn’t bad, we’ve started work with a rejuvenated team. This team has a future. I’m still under contract for another year and we’ll see what happens after that,” said the German, whose side was the youngest in Russia last summer.

Nigeria will meet Tunisia tomorrow in the third-place play-off at Al Salam Stadium, which could see the likes of youngsters Henry Onyekuru, Samuel Kalu and Victor Osimhen given a chance after limited minutes in Egypt.

“We will draw lessons after the third place match. We have a very young team, we’re making progress and perhaps we lacked a bit of clear-sightedness (against Algeria) but we’re moving forward,” continued Rohr.

“We have to work much more. Our midfield is the youngest one. (Wilfred) Ndidi, (Alex) Iwobi and (Peter) Etebo have to learn tactically and they have to make better communication, but I think with time they’ll be very good.”

Rohr praised the resilience shown by his side throughout the tournament, as they responded to a shock loss to Madagascar by toppling defending champions Cameroon and beating South Africa before coming from behind against Algeria.

“I congratulate my players for a big fight against this very good team,” said Rohr. “It was a big fight until the last minute.”

“It was a wonderful match, but we lost it so we are not happy. We scored an own goal which was unlucky but we came back like throughout the tournament when there was something difficult against us. A wonderful free-kick made the difference.”

He added: “The other day we won in the last minute against South Africa, this time we lost. That’s football.”

The former Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso boss also praised the work done by Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi, who took over last year after the Desert Foxes finished bottom of their 2018 World Cup qualifying group.

“The result reflects what we saw on the pitch. The best team won,” said Rohr.

“The match confirms what I said about them making progress. They have made strides both tactically and technically and it’s going to be very tight with Senegal but Algeria have all the weapons to win.”  — AFP.