Saturday, May 19, 2012

If North American football was well moneyed construct, aiming to become a miracle, African football was poor, but real miracle. It was miracle, because the continent lacked resources in every aspect – from stadiums to skills and from organization to transportation. It seemed fueled entirely by enthusiasm and no matter what kind of objective and subjective difficulties the game was facing, it was popular and international tournaments run their course. Under abysmal conditions, the African Champions Cup was staged with amazing regularity. The schedules were complicated, but eventually better teams moved ahead and reached the final stage. In 1976 the finalists represented the great African divide: old, better organized Arab football vs Black African talent, coming out of nowhere. Hafia (Conakry, Guinea) and Mouloudia Club d’Alger (Alger, Algeria). Hafia was ambitious to make a double – they won the African Champions Cup in 1975 and the first home leg of the final they them very solid lead – 3-0.

Anywhere else the first macth result would have been decisive – but Africa was unpredictable and no first match result was a guarantee.

Hafia getting ready to win second African trophy in Algeria. They appeared to be favourites and eager to fight.

But it was not to be their night – at home, MC Alger attacked relentlessly, cheered by crowds of supporters.

Hafia found themselves largely defending and not very successful at that – the Algerians scored three goals and at the final whistle it was a 3-3 tie from both legs.

The final went into penalty shoot-out and the hosts were supreme. However, what was the result? An internet site dedicated to MC Alger and providing plenty of information about the final omits the shoot-out entirely. Other sources are contradictive: some give 3-0 MC Alger; others 4-1; and sometime both results are given in the same source. One thing is certain – MC Alger gained a decisive lead by three goals and collected the Cup. It was their first African Champions Cup and players, functionaries, fans were jubilant. Rightly so.

Mouloudia, or MC Alger, or MCA were old club by African standards – found in 1921. They were traditionally strong in Algeria, and also very popular: the club is considered, may be rightly, the most popular Algerian club, and – more questionable claim – one of the most popular on the whole continent. At last international success was added to popularity.

Here are the conquerors, who may be count for more than just Algerian success: it was victory of Arab football, of the older and better developed game from the African North, after years of Southern victories. The team itself is virtually unknown outside Algeria.

The captain Bachi got some attention in France, practically the only country covering African football in Europe – Mirroir de Football called him ‘the architect’ of MC Alger, which makes him the team’s playmaker. How classy he really was remains unknown, for Bachi apparently was not hunted by European clubs. But he was great in Africa this year and certainly is MC Alger’s legend.