Zinédine Zidane, hero and double scorer in the 1998 World Cup final against Brazil (3-0), has become the symbol of black-white-beur France who truly dreams of being fraternal. It is his exceptional aura that was largely at the origin of the reconciliation match between France and Algeria in October 2001 …

The jubilant crowd chants “Zizou president! ” when the effigy of number 10 of the Blues is projected on the Arc de Triomphe illuminated with tricolor. Everywhere in France, Algerian and French flags mixed together on this evening of July 12, which became a new national holiday before the very republican July 14. In Algeria, July is also a month of national celebration which has fixed since 1962 the date of the 5th, the day of independence torn from this same French Republic … Zinédine Zidane, “Françalgérien” of the second generation of immigrants, transcends the currents passionate about the past and the present and it appears as the dreamed link between two communities called to write together a future full of promises.

The blissful idealism of the plural left …

It was in the collective enchantment of the summer of 1998 that Gilles Smadja, director of Marie-Georges Buffet’s cabinet, launched together with the one who was then Minister of Sports in the Jospin government the idea of ​​a France-Algeria match. . Born in Algeria, in Annaba, he told Thibaud Leplat for La Revue l’After-Foot the genesis of the project: “Algeria was emerging from the dark years of terrorism and civil war. A wind of freedom was beginning to blow over the country. The idea was that football, the most popular sport in the two countries, could help revive the Franco-Algerian relationship. ” We launched the project to organize in the fall of 1999 an Algeria-France at the July 5 stadium in Algiers under the auspices of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. But for security reasons linked to terrorism, the FAF, the Algerian federation, must decline. It is therefore France which will organize the first France-Algeria since independence, with the two A teams. “Reconciliation match” will be played at the Stade de France on Saturday 6 October 2001.

More than friendly, the meeting, which aims to be fraternal, fits well with the somewhat blissful idealism of the government of the plural left, as pointed out by Karim Nedjari in Secret history of the Blues 1993-2002 published in 2002: “The political decision-makers wanted to invent a legend by drawing inspiration from a living myth. Thanks to Zidane, the Franco-Algerian, and his teammates adored by the people of France, a burning page in our contemporary history could finally be turned. Exit the failed decolonization, the tearing of independence, the dirty war, the suffering of tortured Algerians, those of the conscripts of the contingent, humiliated returnees, despised harkis … France has never dared to look at this past, so let’s organize the evening of great forgiveness in the stadium of the world champions. And that 80,000 people blow in chorus on embers still reddened. ” Animated by the best intentions, the Jospin government will then recklessly instrumentalize the Blues, champions of the world and of Europe in a project of a new national – multicultural – union that sport, despite its unifying power, cannot manage to achieve. All the more so since the context of the end of 2001, already strained by the prospect of the presidential election of April-May 2002, is dramatically heavier with the New York attacks of September 11 … cohabitation executive Chirac-Jospin associated our country with the American coalition against Afghanistan and Bin Laden, and in high places, one is worried, among other concerns, about the reaction of the Franco-Algerian binationals.

President Chirac and his Prime Minister Jospin during the 1998 final.

October 1961, October 2001

Is it appropriate therefore, in this burning context of “International terrorism” , to maintain this France-Algeria? Marie-Georges Buffet replied in the affirmative the next day, September 12: “Canceling this match would have been an insult to the Algerian people who had nothing to do with the attacks in New York. ” The meeting will therefore take place on October 6. However, the month of October is also loaded with a tragic event which still haunts the unconscious of Algerians in France. Forty years earlier had occurred in Paris, not far from Saint-Denis, the massacres of October 17, 1961. The Parisian police had repressed with incredible violence (a hundred Algerians killed) the peaceful demonstration organized by the FLN in favor of the independence of Algeria … In this dual national and international electric context, the France-Algeria match is classified as high risk by FIFA and it requires a security device which reinforces the Vigipirate plan: 1,200 police officers in outside the stadium instead of the usual 150 and 1200 stewards instead of the usual 800.

During Euro 2000, a rumor of an attack by the GIA (Islamist terrorist group having raged in Algeria) had already hovered over the France team … We will learn later that on September 24, two weeks before the event, a GR report revealed by The Parisian had alerted Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. This confidential document mentioned the possibility of “Real threats to the match” , from possible banners hostile to Zidane to the risk of unrest “Due to the lack of available places and the presence of propalestinian disruptors” . Thousands of Palestinian flags were said to have been sold in Barbes in the days leading up to the meeting … Young people from the northern suburbs have warned some media that they will not let the Algerian team “To be humiliated” , even if it means interrupting the match if the score becomes too high for Algeria.

Because it is also the other hiatus, sporting this one, which raises fears of other turbulence: the obvious imbalance between monstrous Blues, world and European champions, and Fennecs fallen into the depths of the FIFA rankings. Absent from the last three World Cups and not very shining at the various CAN after its success in the 1990 edition, “the EN” (the national team) already damaged, like the whole of Algerian sport, by ten years of war civil, is struck by a fatal instability at the post of coach. The great Rabah Madjer, returned to coach Algeria at the Stade de France, is the sixth coach in three years! At the Stade de France, a sort of identity telescoping will see the Franco-Algerian of the Blues Zinédine Zidane face off against other Algerians born in France, such as Djamel Belmadi, Yazid Mansouri or Mehdi Meniri … President Jacques Chirac decides to ignore this match, just like right-wing elected officials in general. In its conductor for the evening of Saturday, October 6, the TF1 channel, which will broadcast the match, foresees the possibility of an invasion of the field before the end of the match …

Second part of our series devoted to the France-Algeria match of October 6, 2001 available Tuesday morning on sofoot.com.

By Chérif Ghemmour / Photos: IconSport

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