Published on : 28/05/2021 – 17:31
The very young Algerian Rugby Federation has just taken an important step in its growth by becoming a full member of World Rugby, the body which manages this discipline on a global level. And his men’s team is aiming for the feat of qualifying for the next World Cup, organized in 2023 in France.
This first victory won in Nabeul could not remain without result. In February 2007, a group of Algerian rugby players had succeeded in forming a team to challenge Tunisia on their land. This organized meeting was not official since there was then no Algerian Rugby Federation. But this match won by Algeria 8-7 was the starting point of an adventure which has just led, on May 12, to the admission by World Rugby of the Algerian Rugby Federation (FAR) as a separate member. whole. A consecration particularly greeted on Twitter by Mourad Gherbi, one of its current vice-presidents.
Three of the players on the pitch in 2007 actively participated in this recognition process. Like all their teammates, they then played in clubs in France, professionals or amateurs, and dreamed of extending their dream of an Algerian selection. In 2015, the FAR was created and the former pillar Sofiane Benhassen then became its president, in particular supported by the former three-quarter Azzouz Aib. Two years later, the former third row Boumedienne Allam took the reins of the national team.
This trio worked alongside many enthusiasts and sports officials so that rugby, practiced before independence, finds a place in Algeria. And today, the Federation, at the head of which Sofiane Benhassen was recently re-elected, announces a figure of 6,000 licensees, a quarter of which are girls, and around thirty clubs. It has several national teams for men and women, among young people, in rugby sevens and 15s.
The dream of playing a World Cup in France
The men’s national team is the “locomotive of the federation”. Brilliant at the African level in recent years, it gained further notoriety last December, during the draw for pools for the 2023 World Cup which will be organized in France. Because the African team which will triumph in the continental qualifying phase will be in Group A, alongside the Blues and New Zealand in particular.
“Imagine an Algeria-Scotland or an Algeria-New Zealand in Marseille! It would be the excitement” “, enthusiastic Bernard Laporte, president of the French Rugby Federation, in an interview with DZ Rugby TV, the FAR channel on YouTube, not to mention of course an Algeria-France which is sure to arouse incredible enthusiasm in the Phocaean city.
>> To see: Algerian rugby players in search of recognition
This qualification, the players who represent Algeria all dream of it. “We don’t even need to talk about it, we just have to look at each other and we know,” Boumedienne Allam, coach of the Algeria team, told France24. Over the past four years, he has accompanied the progress of this team, which has managed to slip into the top 6 on the continent, winning the right to play in the 2023 World Cup qualifiers. They will travel to Uganda in July. to face his national team and that of Ghana. The first two of this triangular will win the right to participate, in 2022, in the African Rugby Cup, a competition bringing together 8 teams whose winner will get his ticket for Pool A of the World Cup.
This precious African qualifying ticket has been monopolized by Namibia during the last six editions of the World Cup. And this formidable formation, which currently occupies the 24th place in the world ranking, is logically a scarecrow in view of the next one. Behind it are notably Kenya (32nd), Zimbabwe (35th), Tunisia (39th) or Uganda (40th). A world ranking at the head of which is South Africa, reigning world champion, which, since 1995, has always been directly qualified for the various World Cups.
A rich pool of players
Little experienced, Algeria therefore has a huge challenge to meet. It relies for this on a large pool of binational players who play in different divisions of French rugby and who were able or wanted, thanks to their Algerian origins, to opt for this selection. “We are an emerging nation of rugby but we are lucky to have a diaspora playing in very tough championships in France,” said Azzouz Aib, vice-president of the Federation, contacted by France24.
About sixty of them, from the French professional divisions (Top 14 and proD2) and amateurs or other European championships, will meet next month in Occitania for a preparation course for the trip to Uganda. Joining the Algerian team is not necessarily an easy choice for them because they often have to convince the clubs which employ them to accept their absence, and this despite the international regulations which give them the right to play for their selection. In addition, their only reward is the joy of wearing the Algerian jersey and living an international adventure.
Jonathan Best is one of them. He learned in 2017 that he was eligible and made the choice, at 34, to embark on this adventure. And the one who has just retired after 16 seasons in professional rugby hopes to continue fighting for this team with which he has already played five games. He found incredible values and solidarity there. “It is really worth a try even if we have only a 1% chance of qualifying”, he explains to France 24. “We will now have to win important matches to try to reach the dream of the entire selection “, he adds.
Beyond this very high sporting objective, Boumedienne Allam knows that these qualifiers largely contribute to the development of this sport which benefits from unprecedented media coverage. “I really want to highlight the boys who are on the field, but also all the volunteers who fight outside so that rugby is recognized in their city, their wilaya or their neighborhood,” he underlines. And he hopes that these efforts will allow locally trained players to one day experience the top level and, in turn, wear the jersey of the selection “of the two lions”.