Fans of Algier's USM team. Photo published on Facebook.
The Arab Spring's momentum was short-lived in Algeria. Protests have been quickly muzzled, so Algeria’s youth have taken their angry chants off the streets and into the football stadiums.
Young football fans spare no one in their chants, which target everyone from the president to the military to Islamists. Videos recorded during these matches, notably in Algier’s stadium, show these youth singing songs the authorities would never tolerate during protests on the street, according to our Observer.
“Stadiums are the only place where we can express our fury”
Amine T. is a fan of Alger’s USM football team, and attends all their matches.
In Algeria, fans of other teams have nicknamed us the ‘Msam’iyas’, which is the name given to women who sing at weddings, because our club is known for our creative slogans.
This phenomenon started back in 1988 during a wave of protests. We would take popular songs and keep their melodies but change the lyrics to make them sarcastic. Our songs focus on current events, on politics and the economy. We sing about politicians, about security, about terrorist attacks. We criticise the current government as well as the extremists of the Islamic Salvation Front [a party that is now outlawed]. We also criticise the high cost of living in Algeria and the privileges enjoyed by the country’s elite, who send their children abroad to study while so many young Algerians are unemployed and live in poverty.
Being in a crowd makes us forget our fears. We know that the police can’t do anything, while if we said just half of these things in the street, we would be arrested right away. Stadiums are the only place where we can express our fury.
However, this is not to say that those in power are scared by our chants. If football supporters in France or Italy chanted the way we do, they would be on the front page of every paper in Europe. Here, no one really cares. There’s a sort of tacit agreement with the authorities; for them it’s like: "Say whatever you want, and we’ll do whatever we want."
It’s not so much our slogans that worry the authorities, it’s how many of us there are. For example, when riots erupted in the Algiers neighbourhood of Bab el-Oued earlier this year, the Algerian Football Federation temporarily suspended matches. They did this because they were worried that if the police couldn’t control a few dozen youths in the street, they certainly wouldn’t be able to control 60,000 football fans leaving a stadium. I think that the authorities don't actually have a problem with our chants: if we get our anger out inside the stadium, then that’s it, we don’t cause any trouble outside.
If protests were to start up in Algiers, I don’t think football fans would take part in them, at least not in any organized way. We’re not part of an organised network, as is the case in Egypt, for example. Our club does not bring people together in a crisis, especially since nobody wants to see their team sanctioned.”
Fans of Algier's USM team sing about how great their team is by replacing the lyrics of the Islamic Salvation Front's slogan: "We die for it, we live for it!" They then go on to insult the Islamic Salvation Front's secretary general, as well as the current prime minister. Video published on YouTube.
At 0'50, these football fans start chanting: "Bouteflika is in love with his throne, he wants another term!" They then insult the former interior minister by accusing him of "planting bombs in order to paint al-Qaeda in a corner." They go on to attack Algeria's culture minister. Video published on YouTube.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira.