- Title: FRANCE: Ethnic Algerians in French amateur soccer team have torn loyalties
- Date: 4th May 2010
- Summary: NOISY-LE-SEC, FRANCE (APRIL 28, 2010) (REUTERS) FOOTBALL FIELD AT NOISY-LE-SEC VARIOUS OF TEAM OLYMPIQUE NOISY-LE-SEC GATHERING IN CLUBHOUSE
- Embargoed: 19th May 2010 13:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Topics: Lifestyle,Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA9FAJGONH6WBMP2G4FQHFT3K3F
- Story Text: Olympique de Noisy-le Sec is a soccer club based in the eastern suburbs of Paris.
The club is in the French amateur championships and is currently sitting in seventh place in the league.
It has been run for many years by the Algerian Sandjak family.
And what's more, the majority of the players in the team are also of Algerian origin and there is a very tight connection between the club and Algeria.
The club trainer is Nasser Sandjak. In 1999 he was the trainer of the Algerian national team for a year. With him at the helm, Algeria qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2000 in Ghana and Nigeria. In 2000 and 2001 he also trained the Algerian club JSK from Kabylia and managed to steer them to a win in the Cup of the African Confederation of Football. It was an experience, he says, from which he developed a great deal and which allowed him to become one of the club's best ever trainers at Noisy-le-Sec.
"At the beginning, they were not very good but the players worked very hard to get to the World Cup. And it's good because it has become a tool for us here, at this team. These players who come from here, they were trained here, but they still take their identity from their ancestors. They take on the project of a country, by this I mean take a country to the World Cup and Algeria needs this for its image, to refine its football and after 25 years let the people once again enjoy the feeling of participation in the World Cup," Sandjak told Reuters Television.
But like many Franco-Algerians, Nasser Sandjak is split between two countries: France and Algeria. When it comes to football he leans more towards the national team of Algeria, he says, because of his identity and his parents. This is a view shared by many of the players on the team who are of Algerian descent.
"I think we are in a situation where we are split between the French and Algerian teams but we support both, especially the better one. But I think our feelings for Algeria are deep because it represents our parents, and France because, we know our players, we know Benzema, we know Ribery, they could be one of ours. We have the same values as the French team," he said.
Thirty-year-old Omar Hamour has been playing for Noisy-le-Sec for four years. He is a huge supporter of the Algerian national team which has qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Algeria has not taken part in a World Cup tournament since 1986. Omar is French but admits to feeling torn between which team to give his support to in South Africa.
"Not Algeria. We are used to seeing France participate in a World Cup whereas we are not used to Algeria taking part, because Algeria hasn't been in any major competitions for around 20 years I think. It's hard to say," he said, adding "But I could say Algeria, my country of origin, because that's normal. If I were to be selected for a national team tomorrow, then I would choose to play for Algeria. But that will never happen."
When Algeria qualified for the World Cup thousands of Algerian-French celebrated together on the famous Champs Elysee in central Paris and also in the southern French city of Marseille. For many of them it was a source of pride to see the Algerian team back in a World Cup tournament after 24 years.
Nordine Haderbach has been playing as an attacker for Noisy-le-Sec for just one year. He says that there is so much support because the whole country is behind his team.
"When the Algerian team plays, I don't know, perhaps it's the fact that all the people support them and it warms our hearts. And it is this that I love the most," he said.
"The thing is that we saw this with the French team during the time of Zidane in 1998, it was time of the "Golden Years", but today it seems that it has disappeared and since then there has not been the same amount of enthusiasm for a French team which has been lacking energy."
For many footballers, choosing between two countries is often not an easy task. The famous French player Zinedine Zidane made his career playing for the French national team. Today he shows his support for the Algerian team. The President of Algeria Abdelziz Bouteflika recently offered him the post of selector for the Algerian team but Zidane refused.
But as the World Cup approaches, the players of Noisy-le-Sec are not yet focussing their energy on South Africa. Instead they are putting their all into their own championship.
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