Despite a win in the first leg of a CAF play-off against Cameroon, Algeria failed to qualify for the World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Algeria was among five African nations left out of the finals when the event was announced. It is now awaiting a decision from FIFA on its appeal.
The Algerian Football Federation (FAF) has lodged an appeal with Fifa, citing “scandalous arbitration” during the match. They have questioned the referee’s decision in the second leg and called for a replay. It was alleged that Gambian referee Bakary Gassama made “refereeing gaffes” that resulted in Algeria’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.
On Tuesday, the Algerian national football team lost 2-1 in the second leg of the playoff. Algerian fans were outraged over the decision. They held their breaths hoping that FIFA would rule in Algeria’s favor. The match was played in Blida, and a goal by Karl Toko Ekambi in the fourth minute of extra time, canceled Algeria’s advancement.
The Algerian federation appealed to FIFA for a replay of the match. The federation alleged that the referee made “decisions in favour of Algeria that were in clear contravention of the FIFA Code of Conduct”. It was also accused of fan misbehavior, and incidents of throwing fireworks. The federation also complained of Gambian referee Bakary Gassama’s “disgraceful” refereeing. The Algerian Football Federation has requested that the referee be sanctioned.
Algeria lost the match after extra time, and the federation alleged that Gassama’s “refereeing gaffes” were responsible for the loss. Algeria was also fined for incidents of fan misbehavior, and the FIFA Disciplinary Committee cited incidents of throwing objects. It is expected that FIFA will rule on the appeal by 21 April. In the meantime, FAF has announced that it will play a one-off match behind closed doors. The FLN team has agreed to fly the Algerian flag and play the Algerian anthem.
Algerian fans have long been holding out for a FIFA decision on the match. A news channel showed a show featuring an Algerian guest, who accused French-Moroccan actor Jamel Debbouze of conspiring with Algerian officials to influence the game. They also said that Benzema and Mahrez were connected through the multi-billion dollar World Cup tournament. The two players have played for different teams, but their stories parallel developments in French and Algerian football over the last half-century.
Algeria’s players came up through the French youth system. They are affectionately known as Les Fennecs, and they strongly identify with Muslim culture. They have been linked to the French colonial ideology in the past. This is why they were dismayed when their World Cup qualification play-off against Cameroon was cancelled.
FAF had already submitted an appeal to FIFA’s referees’ committee in May. They argued that the referee’s “refereeing gaffes” and other “order and security” misconduct were the reasons why Algeria failed to qualify for the World Cup. However, the federation’s appeal was rejected. It had asked for the referee to be punished, but Fifa’s referees’ committee rejected the request.