Pride on dis­play at Al­ge­rian derby

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MC Al­ger and USM Al­ger may be fierce city ri­vals from the Al­ge­rian cap­i­tal but they nonethe­less share a his­tory in­twined with their coun­try’s re­volt against French colo­nial­ism.

To­day marks the 100th derby be­tween the bit­terly di­vided neigh­bours from the Al­giers port com­mu­ni­ties of Cas­bah and Bab El Oued.

And while this par­tic­u­lar derby can di­vide fam­i­lies to the point of fisticuffs, the two sides share an eerily sim­i­lar past of po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated strug­gle.

Mouloudia Club d’Al­ger are the older of the two whose name is a ref­er­ence to the birth of the Is­lamic Prophet Muham­mad (PBUH). They were founded in 1921 and even play in the green of Is­lam, along­side white and red, thus mak­ing up the colours of the na­tional flag.

They claim to be the first Mus­lim foot­ball club formed in then-colonised Al­ge­ria.

Not to be out­done, Union Sportive Me­d­ina d’Al­ger were orig­i­nally named Union Sportive Musul­man (Mus­lim) at their found­ing in 1937.

Orig­i­nally decked out in a red strip, they added black as a sign of eter­nal mourn­ing in mem­ory of those killed in the Setif Mas­sacres in 1945, sparked af­ter lo­cal French po­lice fired on anti-colo­nial­i­sa­tion protestors.

With such fier­cly pa­tri­otic be­gin­nings, it is per­haps un­sur­pris­ing each side’s fans can be fa­nat­i­cally pas­sion­ate.

So much so that the match due to be hosted by USM will ac­tu­ally take place 50km away in Bl­ida, by or­der of the Al­ge­rian po­lice.

USM have been pun­ished for past fan vi­o­lence. But even the na­tion’s govern­ment backed daily news­pa­per El Moud­jahid lamented the venue switch, which it said would “kill” a nor­mally white-hot at­mos­phere gen­er­ated by 60,000 fans gath­ered in the Stade du 5-Juil­let, the na­tional sta­dium used for Al­ge­ria games and the big der­bies. Even USM’s reg­u­lar sta­dium, which holds just 17,500 but is lo­cated right on the seafront with a hill be­hind from which fans can watch the game, would have been a prefer­able venue to the one in Bl­ida.

Even so, in­ter­est in the match is at fever pitch in the old town of Cas­bah, pre­dom­i­nantly MC-sup­port­ing, and the poorer neigh­bour­hoods at Bab, who fol­low USM.

While most Al­ge­ri­ans are a lit­tle wea­ried by such fear­some ri­valry, the mood in the old town and the city it­self lifts around derby day with a boost to the lo­cal econ­omy.

Fans in the two ad­join­ing neigh­bour­hoods have been parad­ing their colours and singing songs in a glo­ri­ous dis­play of ir­rev­er­ent an­ar­chy for days al­ready.

Fam­ily ri­val­ries re­lated to the derby are legendary.

Per­haps the most amus­ing sur­rounds the Has­san broth­ers when Tahir played in at­tack for MC and his younger sib­ling Kamel turned out in goal for USM in the 1970s but could no longer bear to see each other.

In the present day, Amir Med­dour, who spoke from Cas­bah, claimed he had banned his MC-sup­port­ing son from hang­ing out with his ma­ter­nal un­cles, fans of USM, ahead of the match to off­set the pos­si­bil­ity of fights break­ing out.—AFP

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