Algerians celebrate despite defeat
Algerians still honked horns, waved flags and cheered on their
football team after it was crushed 4-0 by Egypt in the African Cup
of Nations semifinals on Thursday.
Many fans blamed Benin referee Codjia Koffi for hobbling Algeria and helping Egypt to its first goal. Three Algerian players were expelled in the tense match at Benguela, Angola.
"The referee tilted the game and showed favor to the Egyptians," said Yacine Hadri, echoing the feelings of many Algerians.
Police presence was discreet in Algiers, the capital, despite a feud that spilled into violence earlier in the competition. All appeared calm late Thursday in Algiers - but several incidents were reported across the Mediterranean in Marseille.
In November, Egyptian supporters attacked the Algeria team bus and three players were injured ahead of a World Cup qualifying match. Algerian stores of cell phone operator Djezzy, owned by Egypt-based Orascom group, were looted.
Tension was so high that Egypt's and Algeria's foreign ministers spoke by phone ahead of Thursday's match. After the defeat, Sports Minister Hachemi Djiar went on TV to ask his countrymen to remain "dignified" despite the loss - and to keep supporting the team.
Hundreds of Algerians converged on the square in front of the central post office, waving flags, honking horns and shouting "1-2-3 Algeria!" The TV showed similar reaction in other major cities from Oran in the west to Constantine in the east.
Algerians cheered their team across the Mediterranean Sea in France where millions of Algerians live - and where security was tight.
Still, incidents were reported in Marseille after hundreds gathered in the Old Port neighborhood, some setting garbage cans afire, lighting smoke bombs and throwing cans and bottles toward lines of security forces.
Police said 8 people were detained.
In Paris, police guarded the chic Champs-Elysees Avenue where victories are typically feted. No incidents were immediately reported. Hundreds of Algerians took to the streets in a northern Paris district that was home to many Algerians - under the eye of hundreds of police. Disappointed fans waved flags, set off smoke bombs and shouted "1-2-3 Algeria."
Algeria plays for third place on Saturday against Nigeria.