Skip to main content

Algerian fans chant for Egypt's Aboutrika during African Cup win

Visiting supporters join in show of support for exiled Egyptian player in defiance of authorities' attempts to quash political protests
Algeria's Riyad Mahrez, whose goal in the final minutes secured his country's victory, is now competing with Mohamed Salah over the "Arab's Pride" title (AFP)

Hundreds of Algerian football fans attending their team's African Cup of Nations semi-final win in Cairo on Sunday chanted in support of exiled Egyptian player Mohamed Aboutrika in defiance of the local authorities' attempts to quash expressions of opposition to the government during the tournament.

Social media footage showed Algerian fans waving their mobile phones and singing "Allah Almighty, Aboutrika!" after Egyptian fans initiated the chant in the 22nd minute of the match. It was in reference to the shirt number that Aboutrika wore for years for the national team.

Translation: Despite the security siege, #Aboutrika chants shake Cairo Stadium at the 22nd minute of the Algeria-Nigeria game. Thanks to our brothers, the Algerian audience.

Egyptian supporters staged similar protests during their team's matches in the tournament prior to their elimination by South Africa in the last 16.

Aboutrika, who helped Egypt win the Cup of Nations in 2006 and 2008, is widely considered to be his country's greatest ever player and has been described as a mentor to current national team star Mohamed Saleh of Liverpool. 

But for the past three years, he has been living in exile in Qatar after being placed on a government terrorist list on charges of financing the banned Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed following the 2013 coup that put current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in power.

Egyptian local media had previously reported the arrest of football supporters for wearing t-shirts bearing Aboutrika's picture or name, while Algerian Al-Khabar newspaper reported on 24 June that three Algerian fans had been deported for carrying banners with political statements.

Algeria is currently in the midst of its own political upheaval following the resignation of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced to step down in April after 20 years in power amid mass protests.

The Algerian fans' display of support for Aboutrika also came despite a long and fierce rivalry on the football pitch between Egypt and Algeria which peaked during a crowd violence-marred World Cup playoff match played in Khartoum in 2009. Egypt recalled its ambassador from Algeria after Egyptian fans in Sudan were injured by Algerian fans and Egyptian businesses in Algiers were also attacked.

Algeria's 2-1 win over Nigeria, secured by a late free-kick by Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez, sends the North African nation through to the Nations Cup final for the first time in 29 years.

Mahrez was hailed across the Arab world for securing his team's victory, with many social media users dubbing him "The Real Arabs' Pride".

The phrase is usually associated with Saleh, whose popularity in Egypt was dented by the country's early exit, and by his support for teammate Amr Warda after he was accused of sexual harassment and dropped from the team.  

Translation: Africa's semi-finals and in the last second of the game, Arabs' Pride scores this free-kick and carries them to the finals!

Algeria will now face Senegal, who defeated Tunisia in the other semi-final, in Friday's final in Cairo.