It’s been a month since Algeria dropped out of qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, but the emotional fallout from elimination continues to resonate across the North African nation.
The Fennecs were seconds away from qualifying for their fifth World Cup before Cameroon striker Karl Toko Ekambi quenched all hopes with a dramatic last minute goal at the Stade Mustapha Tchaker stadium in Blida, Algeria.
A few days after the match, Charafeddine Amara, president of the Algerian federation (FAF), resigned and accepted responsibility for Algeria’s absence from the tournament in Qatar.
His departure will become official at the end of May and a new president will be appointed by the FAF General Assembly.
In addition to Amara’s resignation, however, questions have been raised about the future of Algerian manager Djamel Belmadi.
Before leaving Cameroon, he announced that if Algeria did not qualify for the World Cup, they would “take responsibility” and resign.
After the return match in Algeria, however, Belmadi preferred to ask for a moment to reflect before making a final decision.
Since his arrival in 2018, the 46-year-old has been widely recognized as one of Africa’s best young managers.
He helped Algeria win the Africa Cup 2019 and later led them on a series of 35 unbeaten games, which set a continental record.
But the past six months have been trying for the Parisian-born tactician; Algeria is out of the group stage of the 2021 Nations Cup and then lost the World Cup.
After a month of reflection, Belmadi finally sat down for a 50-minute interview in which he touched on his reasons for continuing with the Algerian national team.
“I proposed to terminate my contract to my superiors and gave them the opportunity to terminate the contract. It was rejected,” he said.
“The second reason (to stay) are the fans, and all our people, who supported and believed in us, my staff, myself and our players, despite this crisis.”
After explaining his reasons for staying as manager of Algeria, Belmadi’s interview became increasingly controversial.
Kickback after Belmadi attacks the referee
The main target of Belmadi’s wrath was Gambian referee Bakary Gassama, a well-known match official in his fifteenth year on duty who oversaw their elimination in Blida.
The Algerians contested a push into the penalty area in preparation for Cameroon’s first goal scored by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, and the North Africans were also denied an extra-time goal as Islam Slimani’s header was judged to have rebounded on the his elbow after a referee review of the video assistant.
“We will never again allow a few people to conspire against our country,” Belmadi inveighed video published by FAF.
“I didn’t like seeing the next day when this referee (Gassama) left from Algiers airport, sitting comfortably in the lounge suite with a coffee and a pastry. I didn’t like it.
“He stole the hope of an entire nation.
“I’m not saying you have to kill him, I’m not saying things like that. He’s more of a bully. We can never accept him again.”
Belmadi’s words were greeted with shock and anger, with the Gambian federation inviting the world governing body Fifa and the Confederation of African football to open disciplinary proceedings against the former Marseille and Southampton midfielder.
The Cameroonian federation (Fecafoot) was also unhappy with his comments and its president, former Barcelona forward Samuel Eto’o, issued a statement calling for his sanction.
“Cameroon reserves the right to bring the matter before the FIFA Ethics Committee in the coming days,” Eto’o wrote.
“Fecafoot disputes these slanderous allegations instilled in an allusive way and repeatedly formulated by the leaders of Algerian football.”
The threat of disqualification, therefore, looms ahead of Algeria’s 2023 Nations Cup qualifying campaign next month.
When the clouds clear and the focus returns to the issues on the pitch, fans can look forward to a new-looking squad and a state-of-the-art stadium.
Having finally lost their first match at the Tchaker stadium, Algeria will now move away from the shaky venue and host matches at the new Olympic Stadium in Oran, 400 kilometers west of Algiers.
The all-purpose stadium was built to host the 2021 Mediterranean Games which will take place by the end of the summer.
It remains to be seen whether Belmadi can withstand a storm of his own making and be present at the start of the Nations Cup campaign.