Ebosse’s Death In Algeria Shows The Ugly Side Of North African Football

Ebosse’s Death In Algeria Shows The Ugly Side Of North African Football

Albert Ebossé Bodjongo quickly outgrew the Algerian Championnat. With tree trunks for thighs, and calves that bulged over the tips of his short socks, his physical potential was undeniable. Ebossé tamed the nastiest of defenders, and the ever-flowing stream of goals he scored added insult to injury.

The air of indestructibility he exuded further accentuated the surreal nature of his death, as you felt that nothing could impede Ebossé and his eventual success.

It is not unusual to see West African players, searching to eventually make a career in Europe, use the North African leagues as springboards. The Arab leagues are richer and tend to garner more exposure than most West African championships.

Serey Die (ES Setif, Algeria), John Utaka (Ismaily SC, Egypt), and Kader Keita (ES Sahel, Tunisia) are but a few that have found success in North Africa before excelling in Europe. Other successful imports such as Ghanaian utility man, Harrison Afful(ES Tunis, Tunisia),or Gabonese hitman, Malick Evouna (Raja Casablanca, Morocco), are sure to follow suit.

Ebossé was in that same talented bracket, scoring a league-best 17 goals in his debut campaign. He adapted to life in the Mediterranean Basin swimmingly. His teammates immediately grew fond of him, and marked him out as an excellent striker with all the tools to progress at the next level.

Interest in the 25 year-oldfrom several European clubs was evident before his passing.

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Ponferradina, for instance, recently announced that they had formulated an offer for the Cameroonian striker, but Ebossé was keen on continuing his growth in Algeria.

“There was plenty of interest (from Europe),” he told Algerian channel, DzairTV, “but I had a long discussion with the President Hannachi, and I feel welcome at JSKabylie. TiziOuzou is special. Here I feel as if I’m with my own family in Douala.”

It was a member of his own ‘family’ that killed AlbertEbossé last weekend.

The Douala native was one of several hit by a shower of projectiles upon leaving the pitch. The mob were angry with a 1-2 loss to rivals USM Alger, and they manifested their rage in a murderous manner.

Hooliganism or crowd trouble is, of course, not unique to Algeria. Almost identical symptoms plague Egyptian and Tunisian football, which play host to region’s, and, perhaps, the continent’s best two leagues.

Growing Crowd Trouble

In Egypt, the Port Said tragedy shook the footballing world, as one set of ultras broke onto the pitch and hunted down visiting spectators. Al Ahly supporters will never forgive nor forget the passive role security forces played in the massacre, as police stood idly by while all avenues of exit were closed. The Egyptian Football Association has yet to make a decision on the return of supporters for this year’s domestic campaign.

Tunisia has been grappling with crowd trouble since it became the first country to launch a political revolution, sparking the Arab Spring.

Since 2011 football federation have instituted a ban on supporters, only relaxing limitations for short, intermittent spurts. Tunisia has also tried prohibiting those under the age of 20 to attend matches after nearly living through an Ebossé incident of their own.

CS Sfaxien player Oussama Husseini suffered a skull fracture after he was struck with a rock while sitting on the bench against Stade Gabesien. Fortunately a fairly complex surgery was successful carried out and the 20 year-old Husseini escaped scarred, but alive.

In the mire of such vitriol, two questions come to the fore. How are fans permitted to physically carry out such egregious acts? And, why do they feel compelled to carry out said acts?

The answer to the first questionlies in the details.

Last Saturday, JS Kabylie fans that stoned their own players gained access to a section of the 1er Novembre, 1954 stadium still under construction. There, they chiselled off chunks of concrete and proceeded to launch them as missiles.

JS Kabylie coach Hugo Broos then noted that only team medics were present to tend to those wounded and that Red Cross or other first aid personnel were available. Finally, the premises was not equipped with CCTV or similar surveillance programming to identify the culprit.

If spectators can harm others, if no emergency damage limitation is provided, and if security forces cannot apprehend perpetrators of violence, then, there exists an alarming lack of infrastructure, and that is the biggest facilitator of stadium violence.

The answer to the second question is communication.

North African clubs tend to be very well-supported. At every club there several organized ultra groups occupy entire blocks, compose their own songs, and hold political ideologies. Yet, no effort is made to reach out to such supporter groups in spite of their power of assembly.

Increasing avenues of communication and offering incentives for good behaviour might be one way of eliminating thuggery in Algerian stadia. This project is a long-term one that probably will not be complete in the near future. But, for the late Albert Ebossé’s sake, it’s a process that must begin now.