A Brief and Incomplete Scouting Report on Algeria
With the U.S.-Algeria World Cup clash looming, we thought we'd take a few minutes to find some interesting facts about the North African nation. Here's the scoop on our Group C rivals.
They Swing a Mean Fan
From the 17th century through the early 19th century, the rulers of the Regency of Algiers were known as deys. This system began to change in 1827, though. The ruling Dey found himself in a rather heated argument with the French consul Pierre Deval, and at one point the Dey lost his temper and whacked Deval with his fan. France used this mild aggression—and the Dey's refusal to apologize—as justification for a blockade of Algiers.
The situation gradually swirled out of control, and on June 14, 1830, King Charles X sent French troops and ships to invade Algiers. Within a few weeks the French had conquered the Algerians, and Algeria became a French colony.
By 1954, though, Algerians were fed up with their colonial rulers and began waging a guerrilla war against the French. By 1962, eight years of brutal conflict gave way to Algerian independence from France.
The Soccer Team Has a Cool Nickname
Algeria's football squad goes by the nickname Les Fennecs, which translates into "the Desert Foxes." The Desert Foxes may not be known as a traditional soccer powerhouse, but they've had some success in the past. The team won the African Cup of Nations when it hosted the tournament in 1990, and it had previously made it to the World Cup in 1982 and 1986. The squad has never made it to the knockout round of the tournament despite a stunning upset of 1974 champ West Germany at the 1982 Cup.
There's Some Old Bad Blood With the U.S.
If you remember your American history, pirates from the Barbary States "“ a collection of North African states including Algiers "“ caused quite a headache for American sailors in the early 19th century. Eventually tensions between the U.S. and the Barbary States grew to a level in which the First Barbary War broke out.
The American forces under the command of the Marines and a collection of Greek and Arab mercenaries soundly drubbed the North African forces, but the piracy problem didn't go away. By 1815 the Barbary pirates had begun attacking American ships in the Mediterranean again, so the U.S. Navy returned to North Africa.
The Algerians didn't put up much of a fight this time. Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr. quickly captured the Algerian flagship and one of Algeria's brigs, and the Dey returned all American captives and granted the U.S. free shipping rights in the area.
Over 80 percent of Algeria's land area is covered with Saharan sand. Obviously, the desert isn't the most hospitable place to live, so all of the people have wisely crammed themselves in along the Mediterranean coastline. More than 90 percent of Algeria's population is packed into just 12 percent of the country's land area.
They Provided a Setting for Camus
Writer Albert Camus was born in what's now Drean, Algeria, in 1913, so it's only natural that he set his novel The Stranger in Algiers during France's rule of Algeria. Camus' other major work, The Plague, is also set in Algeria, this time in the city of Oran. Setting the novel in Algeria wasn't just an artistic choice; plague outbreaks repeatedly slammed Algeria's cities throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.
They've Got Gas
Looking for natural gas? Head to Algeria. According to the CIA's World Factbook, Algeria is the world's fourth-largest natural gas exporter. The country also boasts the world's 15th-largest natural gas reserves. As you might imagine, all of these hydrocarbons are what power the nation's economy; they account for 30% of Algeria's GDP and 95% of its export revenues.
Everyone's a Soldier
Military service is compulsory in Algeria, so citizens aged 19 to 30 spend six months in conscript training and 12 months working on civil projects.
Their Flag Has a Story
When the Desert Foxes take the field, you'll see the Algerian flag, which features green and white bands with a red star and crescent. What's the symbolism? The green represents Islam, while the red stands for liberty and the white signifies purity. The crescent has longer tips than you'll see on most Islamic flags; Algerians think the elongated tips bring them happiness.
They've Got a Hockey Team
Who says a desert nation can't play a little puck? The Algerian national ice hockey team has been around since 2006 and even took part in the four-team Arab Cup of Ice Hockey in 2008. Sure, the team finished in fourth place and gave up 23 goals in three games, but forward Harond Litim racked up 11 points to bring home the tournament's most valuable player award.