2019 Africa Cup of Nations: Fans’ brotherhood and national pride ahead of Algeria-Senegal final
“When a national team plays, it represents you, there’s pride. And when the team wins it increases the pride,” Karim, an Algerian football fan living in Lyon, France, told Euronews ahead of Friday's Africa Cup of Nations final between Algeria and Senegal.
In Guillotière, Lyon’s neighbourhood with the biggest African community, the two sides are eagerly awaiting the game that could make Senegal Africa’s champions for the first time. It would be a second title for Algeria.
Standing in the front of his store decorated with Algerian flags, Mr Benguira’s pride for his country was palpable.
“I am very happy for North Africa and I’m especially happy for Algerians," he told Euronews. "They deserve this because it’s a very good team.”
Algerians represent the biggest immigrant community in France, with more than 50,000 counted in the 2015 census, according to the French Statistics Institute (Insee).
Benguira, a shopkeeper with Tunisian-Algerian descent, said his team’s victory against Nigeria last Sunday made him very happy for himself, for his family, for his children and all Algerians and all the people from North Africa.
Algerian fans are hoping for a repeat of 1990 when the country hosted the tournament and beat Nigeria in the final. For the Senegalese, they will be hoping to overcome the disappointment of losing in the final to Cameroon in 2002.
Benguira explained a victory for Algeria would empower the national identity after everything the country has been through this year.
“The Africa Cup coincides with everything that has been happening in Algeria lately (political upheaval). We support Algerians in France and in the entire world with all our heart. Everything is happening at the same time, it’s a huge and very important coincidence.”
Political turmoil has plagued Algeria since the former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in April after a two-decade rule.
The ailing 82-year-old president had been facing mounting pressure to step down following six weeks of nationwide protests and has rarely been seen in public since a stroke in 2013.
The resignation followed a demand by Algeria's army chief of staff for an immediate constitutional procedure to remove Bouteflika from office.
Protests erupted in February after Bouteflika announced he would be standing for a fifth term in an election scheduled for April 18.
It's all about the pride
For the Senegalese, it is also a question of national pride.
“This is our second time at the final stage and I hope that this time we take the trophy back home because we are keen and all Senegal is behind the Lions of Teranga (the nickname given to the Senegalese football team), so we can at least get one star on our jersey,” a Senegalese man walking in the heart of the Guillotière told Euronews.
A few metres away, in one of the most popular Senegalese restaurants in town, a group of friends from Ivory Coast hoped the Africa Cup would go home with Senegal.
“For me, it’s very important because it’s Sub-Saharan Africa,” said a woman sitting at the table. “I love North Africans but I have friends, sisters and brothers who live and study in Senegal.”
Mandaoud Diop has his tailor shop right next to the restaurant. He is jubilant about his team’s successful track record during the tournament. “We really need it. It’s been 17 years since we haven’t classified for the final. This is our second final, I hope we take it back to Senegal.”
Even though these communities have found a place to share emotions, violent episodes have clouded some the celebrations. After Sunday’s game, 282 people were arrested in France.
"I prefer to stay on positive things, the violence is a thousandth of the joy that is badly expressed by louts who are not only Algerian," said Karim from inside his shop, which is also decorated with all sorts of Algerian paraphernalia.
The shopkeeper is convinced that the African brotherhood will prevail regardless of who wins Friday.
Taking another man in his arms, Karim said: "He’s my Senegalese brother — I’m Algerian, we are two brothers. May the best one win!"
"If it’s Senegal, I will cry while you laugh. If it’s Algeria, I'll laugh and he’ll cry. But the next day, we will still be brothers."