The Seventh Mediterranean Games of Algiers in 1975.
First broadcast date
The Seventh Mediterranean Games were held from August 23 to September 6, 1975 in Algiers, Algeria.
The football gold medal was won by Rachid Mekhloufi ’s Algerian team, led by Jamal Keddou, Mokhtar Kaoua and Mehdi Serbah, against the French team of Jean Fernandez, Omar Sahnoun and Castellani.
This was welcomed as a great performance, considering the level of teams like France, Italy and former Yugoslavia.
The organizing Committee chose the “fennec”, a little animal of the desert and mascot of the Algerian team, as the mascot of the Mediterranean Games.
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Sport and games
- Algeria - Centre - Algiers
The Seventh Mediterranean Games at Algiers in 1975
The soccer match between France and Algeria in Algiers in the final of the Mediterranean Games in 1975 went far beyond the limits of sport. Created in 1951, the aim of the competition was cultural as much as sporting. "To gather athletes of different cultures and religions but who come from the same thousand-year old civilisation forged in the melting pot of the Mediterranean basin." At Alexandria in 1951, Barcelona in 1955, Beirut in 1959, Naples in 1963, Tunis in 1967 and Izmir in 1971, the context of the Cold War and the bad feeling left over from the conflicts of decolonisation had prevented the realisation of this Mediterranean dream which could also be found in many cultural and intellectual circles at the time. The Israel's participation was rejected by the Arab countries. In 1975 the issue provoked open conflict between the Algerian Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the competition's umbrella: faced with a categoric Algerian refusal to invite Israel, the IOC refused to call the competition The Mediterranean Games, forcing it to call itself The Algiers Games. Meanwhile of course the Algerian authorities had invested heavily in organising the competition. The conception and construction of the 5th of July Stadium, where the final of the football tournament would take place, and the Mahieddine Sports Palace, had to show off the modernity to which the FLN then in power was committed, following the Socialist model. President Houari Boumediene, the mind behind this policy, followed the competitions closely and marked the soccer final by his presence in the stadium whose name pays tribute to the country's independence in 1962. In these conditions the confrontation with the former colonial power took on a very particular significance. Since independence, the relations between the two countries had been strained, partly because of the Algerian immigrants coming into France and of Paris' cooperation policy, but very largely because of the bitter memories of the recent war of independence.
Indeed even now the Abada Affair, which happened just before the Algiers Games of 1975, still creates tension between the two countries. The pole-vaulter Patrick Abada, whose European family had settled in colonial Algeria, was under pressure from the Algerian Athletics Federation to become an Algerian citizen while at the same time the French Federation wanted him to become French. Torn between the two countries Patrick Abada could not decide one way or the other, so could not take part in the Games, unleashing a diplomatic row between France and Algeria to determine which country he was supposed to represent. So, understandably, the atmosphere was extremely tense before the final of the football tournament, and during the game passions ran high. The 80,000 spectators, many of whom were waving national flags, demonstrated with enormous enthusiasm which increased as the match played out. The French team chosen for Algiers was really no more than a scratch team, Paris having shown little enthusiasm for the Games since their creation. Although French football at the time had no great reputation on the international scene, the team had players who later brought fame to their country, amongst whom was Michel Platini. In sporting terms, the victory of the Algerians was at odds with the obvious imbalance in favour of the northern countries during the Mediterranean Games, whatever the discipline. The team was coached by the emblematic figure of Rachid Mekhloufi, one of the "FLN Eleven", so from a symbolic point of view their victory was seen as revenge on the former masters. Even before the match ended there were scenes of hysteria inside the stadium to such a point that the closing ceremony had to be cut short. Until late at night a great, spontaneous party spread thoughout the Algerian capital: streets were blocked, a concert of car horns. Next morning the newspaper L'Equipe wrote: "Luckily Algeria won, otherwise something terrible would have marked the Games". The subsequent French victory against the host country in the basket-ball tournament took place in an aggressive and hostile atmosphere and ended with a general punch-up: the French team owed their salvation to the police.
The France-Algeria match is a good example of the identity and political issues under-lying football. The round ball assumes a cathartic shape and reveals an Algerian national identity forged in the rejection of colonial domination.
Gastaut Yvan, « Les Jeux méditerranéens, une diplomatie culturelle pendant la Guerre froide », in Teja Angela, Krüger Arnd et Riordan James (ed.), Sport e Culture/Sport and Cultures, Crotone, Edizioni del Convento, 2005.
Fatès Youssef, Sport et politique en Algérie, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2009, 346 p.
Mazot Jean-Paul, Laget Serge, Les Jeux méditerranéens, Montpellier, Presses du Languedoc, 1993, 326 p.