x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Anticipation hitting its peak for Burkina Faso supporters ahead of Algeria clash

Locals and diaspora alike eager for World Cup celebration

Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic is under pressure ahead of his team's World Cup qualifying play-off second leg against Burkina Faso. Mohamed Messara / EPA
Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic is under pressure ahead of his team's World Cup qualifying play-off second leg against Burkina Faso. Mohamed Messara / EPA

In various parts of France, qualification for the World Cup will be celebrated on Tuesday.

That much is guaranteed, and even if the only spectators leaving the Stade de France in joyful mood are the small minority group of visiting Ukrainians, they may well, on their way back into the centre of Paris, bump into large numbers of French residents buoyant with other news of qualification.

The last of the African play-offs, Algeria v Burkina Faso, will be broadcast live on France’s leading sports channel, and it kicks off just under two hours before France v Ukraine. More than a million people with family ties to Algeria live in France and major sporting triumphs by Algeria usually lead to noisy celebrations in various French cities.

The Burkinabe diaspora in France is also significant, the west African country being a former French colony. Anticipation among them is uniquely high. Burkina Faso, who take a 3-2 lead to Blida, venue for the second leg, have never reached a World Cup before.

Supporters of the Burkinabe “Etalons” — the Stallions — everywhere have been advised only to follow the game from a distance. The Burkinabe federation chose not to charter flights to Algeria for supporters, with its president, Sita Sangare, warning: “We don’t want to expose our fans to an unpleasant atmosphere.”

His Algerian counterpart, Mohamed Raouraoua, conscious of the inflamed circumstances four years ago, when Algeria and Egypt were obliged to play off for a place at the 2010 World Cup, urged his compatriots to “respect fair play and the Burkina Faso national anthem”.

Tension has been stoked by references by Algeria’s coach Vahid Halilhodzic to controversial refereeing decisions during the first leg in Ouagadougou — Burkina Faso were awarded two penalties, scoring from one — and the build-up soured by violence as Algerians queued to obtain tickets for the 40,000-capacity Stade Mustapha Tchaker.

At least 30 people were reported injured after tickets rapidly ran out.

“It will be a heated atmosphere,” said Charles Kabore, the captain of Burkina Faso, who finished second in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. “We all know that and we have been in matches even harder than this. We will go out and do the job we have to do.”

sports@thenational.ae

9pm, Al Jazeera Sport HD2