My electronic friend Fahim Officiel, the brains behind the Algerian top you see above or alongside these words, is ecstatic at his country’s progress from the group stage to the last 16 of the World Cup. He asks me to remind Salut! Sunderland readers of his original forecast that they’d reach the quarter finals though I am not sure this was a prediction that made it onto these pages.
After the 1-1 draw with Russia that ensured Algeria’s passage, Fahim gave me his reasons for a remarkable achievement that will seem, in parts of France, like a home win …
Our qualification for the round of 16 is down to the players and coach who have for three years, worked solidly and calmly towards this end.
There were no rumblings during the preparations, they just worked in highly disciplined circumstances knowing the nature of the task awaiting them in Brazil.
Nor did the Algerian players go the the World Cup to play for money; there was no hint of the sort of problem that has affected other African countries. They play for their country, their homeland, for the Algerian shirt, for the people … and they wanted to book a place in history to turn the page of the generation 82 (the year Algeria reached the World Cup finals for the first time -Ed).
Key players? The attacker Slimani, decisive and adept in front of goal, the duo of Feghouli and Brahimi and the goalkeeper M’bholi who saved the team with his top-class saves.
It is not just Algerians in France who are feting this success. Pride has spread throughout the Arab world bringing people out onto the street – children, women, men, the elderly – to salute in a spirit of joy and good humour their country’s historic qualification for the knockout stage.
It wasn’t exactly good-humoured everywhere. The French prime minister Manuel Valls condemned “intolerable incidents” that occurred at some of the celebrations in France. Sadly, a lowlife minority will always cast a shadow over what should be the happiest of occasions (think back to Arsenal “supporters” trashing parts of north London after they’d actually won the FA Cup a few years ago).
But Monsieur Salut was delighted to see L’Equipe recognise the large and overwhelmingly peaceable Algerian population in France by giving prominence the achievement over the ban on Luis Suarez. He expects to hear from Fahim again if his translating skills fell short of perfection.