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Algeria v Egypt showdown: Now that's what you call a grudge match!
Published : 17 Nov 2009 11:00:28Rss feed
Egypt may have won the battle but they haven't won the war. Algeria midfielder Khaled Lemmouchia was not referring to military conflict when he spoke on Monday,but to a monumental World Cup play-off against Egypt in neutral Sudan on Wednesday. Rarely has such rhetoric been more appropriate for a football match. It is exactly 20 years since one of the most infamous chapters in the history of African football. VIDEO: 20 years on - THAT infamous Cairo clash...Having lost out to Egypt for a place at the 1990 World Cup in Cairo on November 17, 1989, Algerian players and officials mobbed the referee and then began hurling plant pots into the crowd. Later, at a post-match reception, the Egyptian team doctor had his eye gouged out by an Algerian player wielding a broken bottle. Star striker Lakhdar Balloumi was convicted and sentenced to prison in his absence, although some say the culprit was actually a reserve goalkeeper. In April, Interpol agreed to drop Balloumi's arrest warrant as attempts were made at the highest level to restore good relations ahead of two World Cup qualifiers between the teams in Group C, but events have only conspired to stoke up the rivalry even further. Zak attack: Former Wigan striker Amr Zaki celebrates his controversial strike Emad Moteab's goal deep into injury-time in Saturday's 2-0 win over Algeria in Cairo left Egypt with an identical record to their old rivals, forcing a knock-out tie between the two. Either the Pharaohs or the Desert Foxes will progress to make their third World Cup appearance next summer and become the only Arab representatives in South Africa. Premier League stars caught in ambush: Mob attacks team coachGRAHAM POLL: Play-off contenders aren't alone in bid to reach World CupMARTIN SAMUEL: Qatar will pay the earth to join sporting elite Typically, they could not agree on a neutral venue for the play-off, so each put a name into a hat and Egypt's preferred choice of Sudan was drawn out. It means they will meet at the 40,000-seater Al Merreikh Stadium in Omdurman in another potentially explosive clash. And there will be several players from England who will be experiencing the hostility. Egypt's squad includes Ahmed Fahi (former Sheffield Utd), Mohamed Shawky (Boro) and Amr Zaki (former Wigan). Algeria's squad has Nadir Belhadj (Portsmouth), Madjid Bougherra (Rangers), Hameur Bouazza (Blackpool), Hassan Yebda (Portsmouth)and Kamel Ghilas (Hull City). Ball battle: Karim Ziani (L) and Ahmed Fathy compete But Lemmouchia believes neither game should have taken place after he and three Algeria team-mates were injured when their team bus was ambushed by a stone-throwing mob in Cairo on Friday. He accused FIFA of conspiring to put Egypt through to next summer's finals in South Africa, saying: 'We should never have been put in this position of having to play Egypt again to reach the World Cup. The first game should never have been played. Before the game some of our players were sick and shaken. Others felt paralysed by everything that had happened. But FIFA still made us play. If they would prefer Egypt to go to the World Cup, then they are making that clear. 'What do you think would have happened if the Egyptians had been the ones attacked in Algeria? They would have turned back, gone home and asked to be awarded the win by default and they would have got it.' Flaming hell: Egypt fans celebrate their side's dramatic 2-0 World Cup win last Saturday that set up Wednesday's play-off showdown by letting off flares Sections of the Egyptian media have even accused the Algerians of feigning the attack and smashing the windows of their own bus. After the game, while President Hosni Mubarak was sending a congratulatorytelegramto the Egyptian team amid joyous scenes in Cairo, at least 20 Algerianswere injured in clashes. In Algeria, where 10,000 Egyptians live,foreign workerswere attacked. The offices of Egypt Air and Egyptianphone company Djeezy were ransacked and armed forces were sent in toprotect the Egyptian embassy. A huge security operation will be mounted in Sudan to try to ensure trouble does not escalate between two nations with a history of cultural and political differences. Moment of madness: An injured fan is carried off on a stretcher by policemen The Algerians think the Egyptians are arrogant. The Egyptians think theAlgerians are violent and uncouth. And nowhere does the rivalrymanifest itself more than on the football field. An Olympic qualifier in the 1980s descended into a mass brawl and onlylast season coach Hossam Hassan and his brother Ibrahim were bannedindefinitely after the fourth official was assaulted when theirEgyptian club Masri lost in Algeria. Hossam was the scorer of thewinning goal in 1989 and that dark day continues to cast a shadow twodecades later. 'There is no doubt 1989 was the worst one of all,' said an Egyptian football insider. 'We all know the story of the Egyptian doctor who had his eye gouged out. 'Balloumi has always denied it but people don't believe it. I don't think the doctor who lost the eye really cares who it was. 'People are saying it's the biggest match in Egypt's history but othersthink the rivalry has gone way out of proportion. It shouldn't be a case of do or die, or life and death. But, with football, we tend to forget about good relations and it descends into a war zone.' And, in Sudan on Wednesday, only one of these bitter rivals will be left standing. Premier League stars caught in ambush: Mob attacks team coachGRAHAM POLL: Play-off contenders aren't alone in bid to reach World CupMARTIN SAMUEL: Qatar will pay the earth to join sporting elite
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