Rugby makes inroads into Algeria
By Lyes Aflou for Magharebia in Algiers – 30/06/08
With its three Rugby clubs – Rugby Club d’Alger, Stade Oranais and Mouloudia M’sila – Algeria is only two short of the number needed to establish a national federation.
Most of Algeria's rugby professionals, including both players and coaches, live in Europe. Mourad Kellal, who coaches the national team, is based in France's Vaucluse region.
Sofiane Benhassen, who also lays claim to the title of Algeria's national rugby selector, has visited a number of newspaper offices recently to promote his plan to give the oval ball a lasting home in Algeria.
"Algeria has 60 players playing in Europe, particularly in France and England, but we do not have the right to take part in international competitions," he told El Watan earlier this month.
Referring to a recent match in Tunisia which resulted in an 8-7 victory for the Greens, Benhassen added, "We’ve done our country proud in several tournaments and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that we're among the top 30 countries in the world and among the best four on the continent."
The return match, which should have been played in Oran several few weeks ago, was cancelled at the last minute due to unrest following football club Mouloudia d’Oran's relegation to Division II.
Another name on the list of promoters excited about rugby in Algiera is Nassim Mohamedatni, who has set up a blog devoted entirely to the game. Describing himself as a member of the steering committee for the creation of an Algerian rugby federation, and vice-chairman of the Rugby Club d’Alger, Mohamedatni says on his web site that contacts have been forged with the Algerian sporting authorities, the African rugby federation and the Arab Rugby Federation.
These contacts have seemingly stepped up the priority of creating an Algerian championship. Such a move would open the door for Algeria to participate in the Maghreb Super Cup, scheduled for mid-December in Morocco. Dubai is also expected to organise the first Arab championship before the end of the year.
Mohamedatni's blog discusses the need to train Algerian players in the sport.
"Our aim is to develop rugby in Algeria through universities, training schools and a quality Algerian championship," he wrote, commenting that there are 80 Algerian players who could be included in a national side, most of whom play in the French championship.
A source at Algeria's Ministry of Youth and Sports who asked to remain anonymous has said, however, that the fact that professionals are playing abroad is not enough to set up a federation and that a local championship must first be introduced.
Until a detailed plan emerges, most Algerians are in the dark about the sport's role in the country.
"Rugby in Algeria?" remarked 20-year-old Karim Azzoug. "This is the first time I’ve heard it mentioned, but it would be worth giving it a go."
"Any additional activity for our young people is always worthwhile," added high school teacher Rabah Moussi.
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.