Even Algerian football fans protested against Bouteflika

Even Algerian football fans protested against Bouteflika
3 min read
12 Mar, 2019
Across Algeria, fans showed the football community cannot remain indifferent to politics and social events, chanting against Bouteflika's now-cancelled bid for re-election.
Thousands of people demonstrated against Bouteflika's re-election bid [Getty]
The past weekend in Algerian football gave an indication of the size of the widespread protests against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth presidential term.

Thousands of people were demonstrating in Algeria's main cities demanding 82-year-old Bouteflika step down.

In Algiers, the capital, students demanded that the president, who has rarely been seen in public following a stroke a few years ago, drop his plan to run in next month's election. More than 200 injuries were listed in the clashes between protesters and the police.

And as always in Algeria, the football community did remain indifferent to politics and social events on such a scale.

In several matches at the weekend, throughout Algeria's top two divisions, football fans sang against Bouteflika's bid, and against the "Pouvoir" - the group of ex-military notables who are reportedly pulling the strings behind the ailing leader.

Most prominent were USMA Algiers fans in their game against Paradou, in what was a mini-derby in the Algerian capital. Their singing and chants sparked a flurry of comments on social media.

Kurdish razor

Meanwhile, a rare incident was seen in the Turkish third division this weekend.

Mansur Çalar, of Amedspor SK, was accused of attacking opponents with a razor blade during a heated derby contest against Sakaryaspor on Saturday.

A video of Çalar holding an object shows the 33-year-old stabbing a rival player in the back after the pre-game handshakes. 

Turkish news agency DHA reported that some Sakaryaspor players have pressed charges against Çalar and that a police investigation has been opened.

After the drama died down, Amed and Sakaryaspor played out a 1-1 draw in a contest which saw both sides score from the penalty spot.

Asian Champions League

The first matchday of the Asian Champions League group stage was also played this week, and it was a surprising one for the Middle Eastern representatives.

The first shocking result came on Sunday when Ittihad Jeddah, fighting relegation in the Saudi League, managed to pull off a victory against Qatar's Al-Rayyan, in Doha. The Saudis won 5-1 in a tremendous display - albeit in front of no fans, due to the tensions between the two countries.

Persepolis of Iran managed to draw at home against Uzbek side Pakhtakor, thanks to a goal from Croat Mario Budimir.

Their city rivals, Esteghlal, went to Doha to face Al-Duhail. It ended with a clear-cut 3-0 victory for the Qataris, with goals from Medhi Benatia, Youssouf Al-Arabi and Ali Afif.

Al-Ain hosted Saudi giants Al-Hilal, who enjoyed a single goal by Shalhoub to gain a precious away victory. Al-Hilal aims to go all the way this year and opening with a win was crucial for one of the most under-pressure clubs in the Middle East.

Finally, the most surprising result of the day came from Jeddah - where local squad Al-Ahli beat Qatar's Al-Sadd, last year's Westside finalist - 2-0. Omar al-Somah, who scored a fantastic goal the previous weekend in the Jeddah Derby against Ittihad, scored a brace and handed his team their debut victory in this year's competition.

Al-Sadd is one of this year's favourites to go all the way after a successful Asian Cup campaign which featured most of its regular players, but when ex-Barcelona legend Xavi is away from the pitch, they have looked shaky.

Is life proving tough without the veteran Spanish magician? 

Uri Levy
 runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here.