Emmanuel Macron does not rule out the organization of a football match between France and Algeria. Good or bad idea, twenty-one years after the missed Stade de France meeting?
It was October 6, 2001. Zinedine Zidane's France received Algeria in a match that has remained, for the wrong reasons, in memories. The invasion of the lawn by part of the public had indeed caused the stoppage of this friendly match which the press presented, at that time in a rather caricatural way, as a “reconciliation of peoples”.
But this episode should not overshadow the positive: "There was an infectious joy, a fervor", remembers the sports journalist Chérif Ghemmour who recalls that "it was the first time that the Algerian team came to play in France". The atmosphere was then at the rendezvous. “Arriving at the stadium, there was the distinct impression that there were more supporters of the Algerian team than of the France team. It was an impression, they were actually more demonstrative,” insists Ghemmour.
“Conjuring up the past” thanks to football?
But the whistles that accompanied the entry of the French players, in particular Zidane, then "La Marseillaise", the French anthem, quickly made the evening difficult. In the second half, while France leads 4 goals to 1, a young woman comes down the field. The stewards barely have time to try to catch up with her when the public invades the lawn. The match is then stopped. It will not resume despite calls for calm from the French Minister of Sports.
More than twenty years later, is a match between the Blues and the Fennecs again possible? It is in any case, according to the words of the French president, quite possible. Emmanuel Macron, traveling to Algiers, told journalists that a friendly meeting between the two countries "would be a good thing to ward off the past", adding that "sport must reconcile".
In reality, there has already been talk of a friendly match, in 2020, between France and Algeria, this time in Algiers. If the two national federations had come to an agreement, the meeting could not ultimately be organized because of security risks. Eleven years earlier, we had also almost witnessed a new opposition between the two teams. Without more success.
Politics or mere spectacle?
Does Macron's exit, which almost looks like an announcement, presage this time that the two federations, French and Algerian, will go all the way? “A meeting remains a political question”, assures Chérif Ghemmour who recalled, last December, that the reduction in visa quotas granted to Algerians and Macron's statements regarding colonization could not allow the organization of such a match. Since, Emmanuel Macron and Abdelmadjid Tebboune have calmed relations between the two countries.
The more favorable political and diplomatic situation, organizing a match between France and Algeria is therefore possible. It remains to be seen what the supporters, or simple observers, would think of such an event.
A study devoted to the "social constructions of the France-Algeria football match", published in 2010 in the magazine Staps, indicates that the France-Algeria match, which "was presented as an event with strong political connotations, in particular for the whole of French men and women of Algerian origin" was an opportunity to see that, for football consumers, "there are various ways of experiencing this meeting".
"Only individuals who have benefited from a specific socialization enabling them to associate football with feelings of national or cultural affiliation are able to consider a match for elements going beyond the sporting aspects alone", can we read in the conclusion. However, the study qualifies this conclusion. Several interviews with French people of Algerian origin having "made it possible to demonstrate that it is not necessary to be a fervent supporter to mobilize emotionally for the time of a match".
An Algeria-France match rather than France-Algeria?
In other words, even if the political or diplomatic situation between the two countries is peaceful, a France-Algeria match takes on a particular character. Especially since we must remember, in part, why the 2001 meeting turned into a fiasco. What the authorities of the time had certainly misjudged.
According to Algeria's ambassador to France, Mohamed Ghouali, "this match was a victim of its own passionate density". A fair analysis which shows that a France-Algeria will never be trivial. But above all, if it takes place, this match must be organized with reflection and intelligence. Concerning for example the place where it will take place. Last year, Gilles Smadja, chief of staff of Marie-Georges Buffet, the Minister of Sports in 2001, believed that organizing the match in Paris "was a major mistake". According to him, “celebrating a friendship made sense in Algeria. In France, it takes on a completely different meaning, which escapes us, brings us back to domestic political issues, to social questions, to integration. We knew it”.
Emmanuel Macron did not, in his statements, specify where this match could take place. Nor when. Aware, certainly, of the stakes that such a meeting can have and that it will take time for the two federations to be ready. Because contrary to what commentators are used to saying, a France-Algeria is not just football...