Algerian authorities hope additional fans for Sunday’s semi-final against Nigeria will help boost the team.
Few believed coach Djamel Belmadi’s side would make it this far in the tournament, but the “Desert Foxes” are now hoping to clinch their first title in nearly 30 years.
And for that, the Algerian government is ready to do just about anything, including the setting aside of a fleet of commercial planes to transport supporters keen on attending the game.
But if history is any indication, the “Greens” are in for a tough challenge, having last beaten Nigeria in the final of the 1990 tournament that sealed Algeria’s first and only continental trophy.
In 2017, Nigeria’s “Super Eagles” beat a somewhat disoriented Algerian side, that had seen six coaches pushed out within two years, to reach the 2018 World Cup.
“They were fragile at the time,” said Nigeria’s head coach Gernot Rohr.
“We beat them 3-1 [in 2017] and there were loads of individual mistakes. They made it easy for us … In the return match also, they were fragile … Now, they are solid,” he said, referring to the Algerian side recently voted the best team in the tournament’s group stage by the tournament organisers.
Algeria’s defence ministry told AFP news agency that six additional military planes would be deployed to shuttle supporters for the final if the team progresses.
A government statement said the decision was taken – with the approval of Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui – so that “600 Algerian supporters could cheer and encourage the national team and motivate them to win this important continent trophy,” as quoted by AFP.
This isn’t the first time Algerian authorities have arranged for the transportation of their football fans.
In 2009, former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s administration had sent several thousand Algerian fans to Sudan to watch the heated World Cup qualifiers playoff between Algeria and Egypt.
Meanwhile, authorities in Tunisia have also organised three planes to transport their supporters to Cairo where the “Carthage Eagles” will take on tournament favourites Senegal in the other semi-final.