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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Algeria footballers withdraw from friendly ‘legends match’ over Israeli participation

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The Algerian players and now-Arab cup winners refused to play in a friendly match due to the involvement of Israel’s former national team manager.

Three Algerian players refused to participate in a “legends” football game in Qatar to protest against the participation of former Israeli Chelsea manager, Avram Grant.

The friendly FIFA Arab Legends match against the FIFA World Legends kicked off on Friday in front of more than 3,500 fans at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha ahead of the first-of-its-kind FIFA Arab Cup final.

The game aimed to “unite” the Arab world with “the entire world,” according to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, but the now Arab Cup champions did not agree to “shaking hands with the apartheid state”.

Rabah Madjer, Rafik Saïfi, and Rafik Halliche all withdrew from the game over Grant’s involvement as coach and player for the World Legends team.

FIFA’s website did not mention the boycott in its report on the website, however the news was picked up by local pro-Palestine group Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalisaton [QAYON] who praised the Algerians for their boycott.

The World Legends squad included Marcel Desailly, Cafu, Andrea Pirlo, and Lothar Matthias, while the Arab one included former Saudi striker Sami Al-Jaber among many others.

The Arab legends won on penalties after a competitive match.

The Algerian team has been a long supporter of Palestine and even dedicated its win to the Palestinian people after a number of matches, including one that pit the team against Morocco earlier in the tournament.

Back in 2016, Algeria’s soccer team pulled out of a friendly match with Ghana also over Grant’s involvement as a head coach for the African country.

More recently in September, Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics to avoid a potential bout against an Israeli opponent, leading him to be banned from competition for 10 years by the International Judo Federation.

Grant’s involvement at the game in Qatar is unusual, given the Gulf country’s refusal to normalise ties with Israel and its strong stand with Palestine.

Doha has made clear its position on Israel and has for years distributed millions in aid to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.


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