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'We took down a president and got a cup': How Algeria celebrated its Afcon win

A historic night saw Algeria win its second Africa Cup of Nations after waiting 29 years
Thousands of Algerians came out to celebrate the win in cities across the country (MEE/Mohamed Kaouche)
By Adlene Meddi in Algiers

In the afternoon, Algerians carried their country's flag to oppose the army's continued attempts to take over the country. In the evening, the flags came out again. Only this time it was to celebrate the country's national team winning the African Cup of Nations.

Thousands descended on town centres across Algeria, shaking the earth with fireworks and flares, to celebrate the Vert's 1-0 win against Senegal in the final. 

"Belmadi [the national team coach] deserves to be our president!," yells 25-year-old Yousef at Middle East Eye, ending in a sob.

"Did you see when he asked the players to bow down to the flag and the audience? It was strong! It is a beautiful team, and Algeria shows that it is capable of the best. We need people like him."

In Hussein Dey, a district of Algiers, the Nahd football team were joined by women and grandmothers intoxicated by the football win who took to the streets with children, strollers, and flags to celebrate the victory.

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In a chorus of horns and songs, overcrowded cars began their parade to the already closed city centre, while the red light from the flare smoke gave Place Audin, another area inside Algiers, an almost apocalyptic feel, as the whole capital hopped and screamed their joy from the victory. 

"We dropped a president and won a cup in the same year! Why wouldn’t we be proud?" asks Linda, 28, as she shook her green and white scarf.

With a phone in hand to film the celebration that passed near him and a smile on his face, Mohammed, 32, a computer engineer, couldn't help but make parallels with politics.

Algeria first won the African Cup of Nations in 1990 against Nigeria when it hosted the competition (MEE/Mohamed Kaouche)
Algeria first won the African Cup of Nations in 1990 against Nigeria when it hosted the competition (MEE/Mohamed Kaouche)

"You know, even Adlene Guedioura [the Algerian midfielder] compared this African Cup to the Hirak [movement], so that means everything," he told MEE.

"Nothing can stop us now!"

On Friday, tens of thousands of Algerians took to the streets in Algiers and other cities to demand radical political reforms and the departure of the ruling elite.

Protesters are now seeking more freedoms and the removal of the remaining symbols of the old guard, after driving president Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office on 2 April.

The traditional "Casa del Mouradia" football supporters' song, has become the anthem of the anti-government movement, along with new slogans like "We brought back the cup, it remains the vipers".

The promise on Friday of Noureddine Bedoui, the prime minister, to "mobilise all the material and human resources available to satisfy" the supporters - who made the trip to Cairo thanks to the chartering of 28 planes by the government and the army - did not calm spirits.

"The players were very good: at the medal ceremony, they greeted Abdelkader Bensalah with respect. Even when the Algerian defence attache in Cairo came to shake hands with the players, they said nothing," said Adel, 36, raising his voice to be heard in the clamour that won the city and explosions of fireworks. 

"For now, it's party time. We must mark this victory as it should be. But after that, we will continue our fight - they must leave, all of them!"

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