Algeria’s war with France over footballers

There have been many powerful wars over the years. The Cold War and the two World Wars were all huge battles, but none of them compare to the battle of international footballers between Algeria and France.

We have seen Algeria miss out on the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Kylian Mbappe in recent years. But who is to blame for the loss of potential Algerian national team talent?

A close case study we can look at is that of Lyon. The Lyon academy has been blessed with a plethora of Franco-Algerian talent over the last ten years. But have the Desert Foxes been missing out on too much potential talent?

There are several names that Ligue 1 side Lyon have produced over the past few years, most notably Karim Benzema who has now won several UEFA Champions League titles with Spanish giants Real Madrid, showing the extent of the quality that OL have produced.

Benzema has always said that his heart is Algerian, but he chose to play for France in order to have a better chance of winning trophies. So does that make it okay, or is it simply inexcusable to betray your ancestral roots?

An upcoming star of French football is Nabil Fekir, who has won the FIFA World Cup since declaring for France. He infamously picked Algeria at first, before switching allegiance to the French just hours later after a phone call from Didier Descahamps. Yet Fekir rarely featured in that Russia 2018 campaign, spending the majority of the tournament watching from the sidelines.

So are Algeria getting treated harshly, and should they be doing more to get these Lyon players to pick the North African side at international level?

Of course, some of the talent to come out of the Lyon academy have picked Algeria. The likes of Yassine Benzia, Ishak Belfodil and Rachid Ghezzal all chose the country of their parents rather than the country that they were born in.

Rachid Ghezzal is one of few French-Algerians who chose to represent the country of his parents. But due to poor form he has been dropped from the squad.

However, it does often feel as if Algeria miss out on the real top stars and are left with the footballers that France do not want. And this needs to change rapidly. Algeria need to establish themselves as one of the biggest nations in Africa and use their grabbing power to attract the top players. The recent victory at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations shows that you do not have to play for France just to have an opportunity of winning silverware at international level.

On the other hand, history dictates that the Franco-Algerians who pick France often end up regretting doing so. As in Karim Benzema’s current case, it looks as if he will never play international football ever again. And Benzema has even come out recently and pleaded with footballing officials to let him play for other nations. Too little, too late? Or better late than never?

Aditionally, many immigrant French footballers such as Benzema are treated poorly by the French people if they do not uphold their standards of what they believe it means to be French.

The France-Algeria relationship has been incredibly complicated due to their colonial history, even in football.

Rabah Saadane has come out in recent days and said that the Algerian FA will do all they can to convince Houssem Aouar to pick Algeria, the next big star to come out of the Lyon academy.

We can only hope that the federation take the talent to come out of Lyon more seriously, and start getting these players on board at a much younger age before they filter into the French international youth system.

But Lyon is just an example. There are many clubs in France that produce Algerian youngsters. The likes of Yacine Adli and Adil Aouchiche have just come out of the PSG academy for instance. Algeria are missing out on some of the potential best players in the world, and only time will tell if the situation will change.