International football. Find a winning formula, stick with it. Find a coach that understands the nation. Find players to do the job. Seems simple, doesn't it? But how many follow these rules. Gary Al-Smith gets inside the head of Algeria's Majid Bougherra.
Imagine that we’ve had an exclusive one-on-one with Rangers and Algeria international Majid Boughera. Here, he speaks* – exclusively – of how his country want to lead the way in the production of African coaches by sticking to their own. You are encouraged to try to read this (exclusive, of course) piece with an Arabic accent. The words – and sometimes grammar – have been chosen to suit the common English usage of North African countries.........
Mrahva yissouen. I greet you.
My name is Majid Bougherra. I am Algerian. But I play for Rangers in Scotland.
I am 27. I love Algeria. Not just because I am from here. Or just because we are a giant around here – I am sure you did not know that we are the second largest country on the African continent.
No, not even that. But because of an exciting experiment we are going through now.
I know that many people think we are a crazy and temperamental football country especially with the things that have happened this year. It started last year actually, when we met Egypt in Omdurman to kick their dictatorial butts out World Cup qualifying.
Trust me on this: the troubles were all their fault. And then we went to the African Cup in Angola. We got out of the group stages and into the quarter finals. We went past that and started to dream. Until we played the old enemy again. I admit they played better than we did, but still Emad Motaeb is a diving cheat!
That defeat was bad. We showed little spirit. I hang my head in shame.
I hang my head in shame because I think it is more disgraceful than the Tunisia ’94 thing. At the time les Fennecs was disqualified from the African Cup because we used an ineligible player.
And yes, I know you will talk about the Saifi incident at the World Cup. But after he was accused of slapping a journalist…I forget her name…but after he was charged with slapping her in the interview zone after USA beat us, Saifi has been punished by FIFA, no? So justice has been done. Why did he do it? When he did that my country had just celebrated Revolution Day and maybe he was pumped up. But he told us in the bus that she had been writing bad things about him. Maybe that’s why he reacted that way.
And no, he did not expect her to slap him back.
Anyway, I want to tell you about what we are doing here for the past few years.
We want to make sure that the future of Algerian football remains pure and rich, just like couscous. Couscous is like a steamed…how-do-you-say?... porridge? yes…..and then you add lamb or chicken. Because of weight issues during the season, I usually eat it with a lot of vegetables, so that it looks like a stew.
Well, so we want to preserve the way our national team plays; we want to play like we think.
That is why we have chosen another local to replace Cheik as national team coach. Cheik (oh, Cheik means ‘the Wise’. That is Rabah Saadane’s nickname) - Cheik has been very good to Algerian football. He has given most of his life for it. But we needed a change at this time.
I do not know Abdelhak Benchikha much, at least not personally. But I like it that the FAF has put a young man in there. He’s 47 and Algerian. I can’t think of anyone taken to be a Fennecs coach that young before. It means we are giving the next generation a chance. I look around and I do not see many African countries looking to do that. After the World Cup, Cameroon have taken another foreigner. Nigeria are not sure what they are doing but my Nigerian friends think they will go for another white man.
South Africa have gone for one of their own, but when I met Steven Pienaar at mall the other day he said it was only because Parreira had campaigned for him. Pienaar also says the South African federation people would never have given it to a local because after hosting a great World Cup, they now feel world class.
Hehehe. They think they are world class. I think he was chosen because his head looks like the Jabulani that embarrassed our goalkeeper Chaouchi.
Ok, so I have heard people saying we are copying Egypt’s example. But tell me, has a local Egyptian coach taken them to the World Cup recently? So still, we are unique. While England have decided not to believe in their own we are going back to our roots.
Of course we do not have a lot of ‘roots’ in Algeria because almost all our land is desert, but I know you get my point! Do you know that it is because Algeria protested to FIFA at Espana ’82 that the final two games in each group of any football competition are played at the same time? Ha! We are a very visionary people, I tell you.
And that is why we want Africa to follow our example of not having any more foreign managers. And especially not the French! Maybe Zizou, but even then he only claims our heritage when it suits him. He has never brought his son here before, has he?
Speaking of France, I know our people there would love for us never to choose a Frenchman as coach again. My nephew at the University of Algiers says there are now more than a million Algerians living in France! But it is sad that there is racism there, so in their hearts, most of them would have wanted to come home. I was born in France myself, so I know what I am saying.
You see, local coaches know what the players want. They know what the fans want too. So there is no problem. Let me tell you: if our Federation’s president - Raouraoua -pays Benchikha like a foreign coach, he will do miracles and maybe become a bigger hero than Rabah Madjer was back when I was growing up. Saadane had a lot of patience and respects the local traditions and that is why he has coached the Fennecs five different times since 1981.
Can a foreigner do that? No.
Look at Jean Cavali. When he was coach before Saadane’s recent stint, he left because certain Algerian-ness did not make him happy. But I think when African teams hire foreigners, they should let them know how things work in Africa, so they enjoy a good relationship. What do you think?
I’m not a journalist to give you figures but I have noticed that African coaches usually give younger talents a chance at the senior team. I was happy for Seydou Doumbia when Cote d’Ivoire’s new local coach gave him a chance. They say he’s the new Drogba. We’ll see.
In Algeria we have our own exciting players you need to look out for. Some of them you may know but not all: Meghni, Hadj Issa, Matmour and especially Karim Ziani.
Together we will make Algeria bigger than that famous team who beat West Germany at the 1982 World Cup. Benchika will not have it easy because of the demanding fans but I hope we can qualify for the next AFCON too.
Aller les Fennecs! Aller Moharibou Essahra! Aller les Verts!
Majid 'Magic' Bougherra
Gary writes on African football for several media outlets including kicker, WorldCupBlog & ESPN. Follow Gary on twitter @garyalsmith
* Just to re-itterate; Majid Bougherra was not actually involved in this interview and the views are not those of said player. To the best of IBWM's knowledge, Sven Goran Eriksson is currently at Al-Hilal.