The Algerian national team was formed in clandestine circumstances in 1958 when Mohamed Boumezrag, a leader of a section of the Front de Libération Nationale (National Liberation Front) of Algeria based in metropolitan France, returned from the 1957 World Youth Festival. Using the contacts he had made during the tournament, Boumezrag recruited ten of the best-known French-based Algerian professional players to secretly leave the country and go to Tunisia where the Algerian national team was formally established on April 13. The world football governing body FIFA later announced after protest from the French Football Federation, that any team that played the Algerians would be expelled from the World Cup, while the French government succeeded in arresting other players who tried to leave the country to join the team. Despite these obstacles, the Algerian FLN team played around 90 matches over the next four years and helped win international recognition for the Algerian struggle for independence.
Ambassadors of the Algerian Revolution
Starting two months before the beginning of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, 30 professional players in the French league left l'Hexagone in successive waves to join the FLN. A grand gesture from the founders of the future Algerian national team.
The idea to create this revolutionary team, which would become the ambassadors of Algeria until the end of the war in 1962, was born in 1957 with the return of Mohamed Boumezrag from the World Youth Festival in Moscow. Holding up the green and white flag, a football team had represented Algerian sports at the event. Boumezrag had remembered that, a few years back on November 1, 1954, a team of North African players had beaten France by 3 goals to nil in a benefit match organised for the victims of the Orléansville earthquake (a city now known as Ech-Cheliff), which had killed 1,460 people two months earlier. The select team included Moroccan duo Larbi Ben Barek and defender Abderrahman Mahjoub and Algerians Mokhtar Arribi, Said Brahimi and Abderrahmane Boubekeur.
With Mokhtar Arribi, the trainer of Avignon, Abdelaziz Bentifour,
Doctor Moulay, who organised the Algerian students, and Mohamed Maouche
of Stade Reims who was also pre-selected for the World Cup started
to develop the operational departure for Tunis. At the beginning,
the plan set up by the FLN was meticulous and without any faults,
in diverting all the police monitoring systems. Thus, after the
contacts undertaken by Arribi and Boumezrag, all the steps were
taken by all, one by one in forecast of the "departure" which was
planned for Monday April 14, 1958. A rigorous monitoring of the
players was established as it was during the period of the assimilation
of "French-Muslims" preached by the presidents of the French clubs.
Monitoring their movements, contacts, and rigorous border checks,
however without any conclusive results. Ten players found themselves
in Tunis and constituted the heart of the FLN team.
Two groups of players were to leave France at the same hour but from different borders. The Northern group was composed of Abdelhamid Kermali, Mokhtar Arribi, Abdelhamid Bouchouk, Mohamed Maouche, Rachid Mekhloufi and Said Brahimi all at the Swiss border. The second group that went by the French-Italian border included Abderrahmane Boubekeur, Mustapha Zitouni, Abdelaziz Bentifour, Kaddour Bekhloufi and Amar Rouaď.
Monaco’s Bentifour, who said he was sick to miss his club’s match with Angers in which he was named as substitute, left first for San Remo in Italy on Friday. Two days later, the three other Monaco players left with Rouaď for Rome. By Monday, they would be the first five Algerian footballers to landing at Tunis Airport.
In Tunis, they were joined by the players who were to pass through Switzerland, after a hitch, as Mekhloufi was hospitalised in Saint-Etienne. The player had been injured on Sunday April 13th in the last minute of his club’s 2-1 loss to Béziers, a match in which he scored his team’s only goal in the 80th minute. He had collided with team-mate Eugčne Njo Léa and was sufferring from concussion, he spent 36 hours in hospital.
It is on the way towards the border that they learn that their escape is known to people in France. They managed to get to Montreux in Switzerland but forget to meet Mohamed Maouche, who had already reached the originally agreed meeting point in Lausanne. Without any information on the other players, Maouche decided to return to Paris, where he learned that his friends have gone. He tried to return to Switzerland but was stopped and imprisoned.
"Footballers of the Revolution"
After overcoming the difficulties and obstacles in Switzerland and Italy, the players finally arrived to Tunis. Two groups of players later joined the first in 1959 and 1960 (the latter including Maouche), and together they would carry the torch of the Algerian Revolution by defending the colours of their nation.
From Africa to Far East Asia, the national anthem "Kassamen" would be sang out loud with the ‘green and red emblem’ and ‘the red crescent and the star’ known to the people of the world. The French Football Federation asked the world football governing body FIFA to stop the FLN matches but the team continued playing.
The technical director of the team was former Red Star player Mohamed Boumezrag and the training was carried out by 34 year-old Arribi in a player-coach role and Abdelaziz Bentifour and later by former Marseille duo Abderrahmane Ibrir and Said Haddad. The first official match of the national team of the FLN was against the great Tunisian national team, who were finalists in the Pan-Arab Games in Beirut a year before, the result was a surprising one for the observers... 8-0 to the Greens! The Algerian national team was born, thanks to Boubekeur, Zitouni, Rouaď, Bekhloufi, Maouche, Arribi, Bentifour, Brahimi, Mekhloufi, Bouchouk and Kermali.. Who revealed the true potential of Algerian football and become the traveling ambassadors of Algeria. From Belgrade to Hanoi while passing through Prague, Sofia, Bucharest, Peking, Baghdad... they did wonders... with the ball!
Against Yugoslavia, they had a "revolutionary" win, 6-1 in favour of the Algerians. In Vietnam where the team played several matches, the Algerian sportsmen were received by President Ho Chi Minh. While in China, the team met Prime Minister of the People’s Republic Chou En-Lai. In Baghdad, the Iraqi fans went delirious as they invaded the pitch "Congratulations to those who succeeded by the means of sports to tarnish the image of colonial France..." declared the Baghdadis.
And it is at the time of the FLN-Iraq match which was held in Baghdad in February 1959, that for the first time, the Algerian flag was hoisted and their national anthem ‘Kassaman’ was sung. Invited to attend the match, was the ambassador of France who had hastily left before the game as a sign of protest. It was one memorable day, as the team of the FLN had affirmed the colours of the national team of Algeria. That day, the mudjahidine-footballers represented their nation with dignity, as they beat the Iraqi team 3-0.
Iraq’s star midfielder Edison Eshay recalls the build up to the event and the game itself. "I remember when we heard that the Algerian team was coming to Baghdad, we knew that in the team there were professional players from the French league. I remember we prepared hard to meet this challenge. I remember it was one of my best games, we played the best we could, but we could not stop the Algerian players. I also remember Jamoli, our captain & center back played one of his best games. If you think about it, thats about 50 years ago. To me it’s like it was yesterday!! I also know that they were received by the Iraqis like heroes. The fans went crazy that day!
"Ten Muslim professional footballers are reported missing", announce the French media.
On April 15, 1958, French football fans awoke to the news to the headlines at the newsstands. L’Equipe: " Nine Algerian footballers disappear."
At the time, fifty-three professional footballers playing in D 1 and D 2 were of Algerian origin, nine were among the best in France, their defection to Algeria shocked French fans.
French newspaper Paris-Match devoted a special part to Mustapha Zitouni, the pillar of the Monaco defence and France, who was to play on Wednesday in a friendly match against Switzerland in preparation for the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. His absence was a big loss to Les Bleus. Like fellow Algerian Rachid Mekhloufi, champion of France in 1957 with Saint-Etienne, another player included in the French squad. After the news of their defection, L’Equipe: had this comment: "France L’équipe remains, even if the word France takes a more narrow meaning." A few days before "the escape" from France, Paul Nicolas, the national coach of France, who qualified for the World cup in Sweden, named a list of 40 players pre-selected to form part of the "22" leaving for Stockholm. On the list appeared the best central defender in the French league, the Algerian Mustapha Zitouni and his compatriot Rachid Mekhloufi, considered by many as the best playmaker in France. These two players were to play for France against Switzerland on Wednesday April 16 at Parc des Princes (the game ended 0-0). The news of their disappearance spread around the world from the radio waves to the TV screens, its effect was like a bomb: Ten Muslim professional players were reported missing. Among them were four internationals - Abdelaziz Bentifour, Mustapha Zitouni, Rachid Mekhloufi and Mohamed Maouche - who played for Nice, Monaco, Saint-Etienne and Stade Reims, respectively. On April 14, 1958, France learnt about the strange disappearance of Rachid Mekhloufi of AS Saint-Etienne, a player who had helped France qualify for the World Cup and was one of the 40 pre-selected for the championship in Sweden, along with Mustapha Zitouni, Abderrahmane Boubekeur, Abdelaziz Bentifour and Kaddour Bekhloufi, all four from Monaco, Amar Rouaď of Angers, Stade Reims player Mohamed Maouche, Abdelhamid Bouchouk and Saďd Brahimi of Toulouse and Abdelhamid Kermali of l'Olympique Lyonnais.
The 10 Algerian players who had decided to travel to Tunis where the
provisional Government of the Algerian Republic ‘Gouvernement provisoire
de la République algérienne’ (GPRA) was installed, left promising
careers behind them.
"I did not hesitate" declared Rachid Mekhloufi, the star of the FLN team.
Mekhloufi was a world-class footballer. "It was very quickly clear", says Jean Snella, his coach at AS Saint-Etienne and Servette in Switzerland. "He was one of these athletes made for football. He was able by his intelligence and his tricky, to draw in his opponent on false tracks.
"To create the unexpected, that he has, is the secret of great footballers.
Mekhloufi is the King of the unexpected", confirms Robert Herbin,
a former team-mate.
"You know, people’s reasons today in terms of career, accolades and money... The World Cup, of course, I thought of it, but it was nothing compared to the independence of my country " Mekhloufi adds.
The FLN did not know about the initiative at first. The L’Armee de libération nationale (ALN) already had their own football team made up of amateurs playing in Tunis. However, Ferhat Abbas, president of the GPRA, would very quickly understand the importance of a team which would represent the nation abroad.
"The Algerian authorities", Mekhloufi tells France Football, "had not thought that we could create a competitive team on a world stage. At the beginning, it acted above all as a political act... But we played against selections of several cities that resembled like two water drops to the national teams. I remember that we beat Yugoslavia 6-1. An exploit which marked the spirits. "
Maouche also remembers: "With the passing of time, I can say that none among us have regrets... We were militants, we were revolutionists. I fought for independence... They were beautiful years."
Its not surprising that the first president of the independent Algerian republic was himself a footballer. Ahmed Ben Bella, one of the founders of the FLN once played for Olympique Marseille, making his first and only appearance for the famous club on April 21, 1940, scoring one of 9 goals in a win over FC Antibes.
From May 1961, things started to turn up-side down for the team.
The war raged making it impossible for football to be played. It
was proposed to some that the players take up arms before they are
sent for their last round of matches in Libya. Certain players
wished to return to their clubs, most joined Tunisian clubs as amateurs.
The war ended in March 1962, independance was declared on July 5, 1962, bringing joy and relief to the players. Oualiken, Bouchouk, Bentifour, Kermali, Zitouni, Bekhloufi, Boubekeur and several others from the old FLN team returned to Algeria as players and coaches to develop the talent in Algeria.
Players like Mohamed Soukhane, Said Amara and Ahmed Oudjani returned to their professional clubs in France. Rachid Mekhloufi and Mohamed Maouche went to Switzerland, Mekhloufi playing for Servette, while Maouche was appointed player coach of FC Martigny.
Mekhloufi later returned to France and won the Saint-Etienne club their second league title in 1964 (the first was in 1957 with Mekhloufi the star of the side). The team had suffered from the Algerian’s absence while he was with the FLN team; he later captained Saint-Etienne to the league-and-cup double in 1968. 14 years later, he would coach his country at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, where they beat West Germany 2-1 and Chile 3-2 as they narrowly missed out on a place in the second round.
NB: this team had been formed in Tunis and consisted of (amateur) players from clubs in Algeria (rather than professional players active in France); the list of matches follows [SB 85] (only the matches played in Egypt could be verified (and corrected) with local sources); the ALN (Armée de Libération Nationale) was the armed branch of the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale); as mentioned in the introduction above, an Algerian selection also played at a youth festival in 1957 in the Soviet Union, defeating Italy B 8-1, Austria 15-1, and France 14-4, and drawing 4-4 against a Russian team before losing 1-2 to Italy A (cf. [SB 85], p. 26). date opponents venue score sélection des Algériens en Tunisie - 6-1957 Al-Ittihad (Tripoli) Tripoli 2-1 25- 6-1957 Benghazi XI Benghazi 2-1 - 7-1957 Darna XI Darna 1-0 NB: results of three other matches (the team apparently played two in each city) not available équipe de l'armée de libération nationale -12-1957 Al-Ahly (Tripoli) Tripoli 3-2 15-12-1957 Al-Dahra (Tripoli) Tripoli 3-1 3- 1-1958 Darna XI Darna 3-2 - 1-1958 Al-Ahly (Benghazi) Benghazi 2-2 - 1-1958 Benghazi XI Benghazi 2-1 - 1-1958 Al-Mourouj Al-Marj 3-0 12- 1-1958 Egyptian Armed Forces Cairo 1-3w 17- 1-1958 Masry SC Port Said 2-1x 19- 1-1958 Zamalek (Cairo) Cairo 3-2y 26- 1-1958 Suez Canal Zone XI Suez 1-0z 5- 2-1958 Damascus Military XI Damascus 1-2 10- 2-1958 Aleppo XI Aleppo 2-1 18- 2-1958 Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya Baghdad 4-1 - 3-1958 Kirkuk XI Kirkuk 2-1 11- 3-1958 Kuwait XI Kuwait City 3-1 13- 3-1958 Egypt XI Kuwait City 4-1 22- 3-1958 Riyadh XI Riyadh 1-2 1- 4-1958 Amman XI Amman 3-3 - 4-1958 Irbid XI Irbid 8-1 4- 4-1958 East Jerusalem XI Jerusalem (East) 6-1 20- 4-1958 Aleppo XI Aleppo 1-1 23- 4-1958 Aleppo Armenian XI Aleppo 5-1 - 4-1958 Misurata XI Misurata 4-1 w match not included in [SB 85] x match date listed as 25- 1-1958 in [SB 85] y match date listed as 20- 1-1958 and opponents as Al-Ahly (sic) in [SB 85] z match date listed as 28- 1-1958 in [SB 85]
NB: list follows [Naï 08], but dates and opponents were (partially) corrected or enhanced with other sources; all results listed from the perspective of the FLN side; opponents in bold face were official national sides according to [Naï 08] but this was certainly not true in all cases (and most probably in none in Eastern Europe); corrections, preferably verified with local sources, are most welcome. date opponents venue score - 4-1958 US Tunisienne Tunis 7-1 - 4-1958 US Tunisienne Tunis 8-0 - 4-1958 Tunisia XI Tunis 8-0 NB: order of matches unclear: [Naï 08] lists them in the above order but [SB 85] has the results ordered 8-0, 7-1 and 8-0, and the opponents in the 7-1 win as Tunisia XI instead of US Tunisienne; the match against Tunisia XI may actually have involved the Tunisia national team but been played on 3-10-1959 (see below). 3- 5-1958 Tunisia Tunis 5-1 NB: this match, the first "official" one for the FLN team, is missing from the overview of all its "official" matches in [SB 85] (pp. 391-394); the text section suggests this is due to a confusion with the Tournoi Djamila Bouhired which took place a week later. Tournoi Djamila Bouhired 9- 5-1958 Morocco Tunis 2-1 11- 5-1958 Tunisia Tunis 5-1 NB: Libya also entered this tournament, losing its semifinal 1-4 on May 9 to Tunisia before playing Morocco on May 11, losing 1-2 in the match for third place; at the time, Morocco and Tunisia were provisional members of FIFA and were to be granted official membership at the 1958 FIFA congress, but a FIFA investigation into the matches by the FLN team (including the above two) delayed the eventual membership of both Morocco and Tunisia until August 1960. 4- 6-1958 Al-Ahly (Tripoli) Tripoli 3-0 6- 6-1958 Tripoli XI Tripoli 7-0 10- 6-1958 Benghazi XI Benghazi 8-2 Tour of Morocco 14-11-1958 Fčs/Meknčs XI Fčs 5-1 [Allouch ~55' / Kermali 17' 55', Mekhloufi 37' 79', Soukkane 50'] 16-11-1958 MC Oujda Oujda 2-0 [Kermali 76', Abdallah ~80'] 18-11-1958 Chaouia XI Casablanca 4-2 [Moulay Abdallah 25', Khalfi 67' / Bouchouk 7' 61', Mekhloufi 17', Brahimi 36'] 21-11-1958 Central (Morocco) XI Rabat 3-2 [Mekki 48', Raďs 80' / Brahimi 10', Mekhloufi 24' 63'] 25-11-1958 KAC Marrakech Marrakech 6-2 [? 2', ? 60' / Kermali 1' 35' 80', Mekhloufi 10' 25', Ben Tifour 40'] 28-11-1958 Northern (Morocco) XI Tanger 7-0 [Bouchouk 22', Kermali 32' 89', Ben Tifour 65' 74' 86', Brahimi 75'] NB: the Fčs/Meknčs XI was a combination of MAS Fčs and Rachad Meknčs; both [SB 85] and [Naï 08] give incorrect results for half of the matches: for the first match against Fčs/Meknčs XI (there identified as MAS Fčs) they list a 5-0 win, for the fourth match in Rabat a 2-1 win and for the fifth in Marrakech (with the opponents given as Southern XI) a 5-0 win. Tour of Middle East Matches in Jordan 30- 1-1959 Nablus XI Nablus 4-2 1- 2-1959 East Jerusalem XI Jerusalem (East) 11-0 4- 2-1959 Irbid XI Irbid 10-1 6- 2-1959 Amman XI Amman 8-2 Matches in Iraq 13- 2-1959 Mosul XI Mosul 5-1 18- 2-1959 Sulimaniya XI Sulimaniya 8-1 19- 2-1959 Kirkuk XI Kirkuk 5-0 22- 2-1959 Baghdad XI Baghdad 10-1 25- 2-1959 Iraq Army XI Baghdad 3-0 27- 2-1959 Basra XI Basra 3-2 - 3-1959 Tunisia Tunis 4-0 26- 4-1959 Al-Ahly (Tripoli) Tripoli 4-0 First Tour of Eastern Europe [XIs may in fact have been leading local club sides] NB: general note for all matches in Eastern Europe: the "Trade Union" tag for many of the teams probably was a label of convenience to get around the moratorium on matches between the FLN side and FIFA-affiliated teams. Matches in Bulgaria 12- 5-1959 Dimitrovgrad XI (?) Dimitrovgrad (?) 1-0 [possibly in Dimitrovo, see note below] 15- 5-1959 Plovdiv XI Plovdiv 0-1 19- 5-1959 Varna Trade Union Youth Varna 1-1 21- 5-1959 Sofia Trade Union Youth Sofia 3-4 NB: Plovdiv (both Botev and Spartak) and Varna (Cherno more) had clubs playing at the top level at the time (Cherno more were relegated at the end of the season but Spartak (Varna) were promoted); Dimitrovgrad did not have a club at the first or second level; however, the town of Dimitrovo (now known as Pernik) was represented in the top flight by Minyor and perhaps the first match was played there, although both [SB 85] ("Dimetrograde") and [Naï 08] have the venue as Dimitrovgrad, possibly because they were not able to find Dimitrovo on the map anymore; the opponents in the final match in Sofia are claimed to have been the national team in [Naï 08], but described as the espoirs (the national youth side) in [SB 85] and as sofiyskiya profsuyuz no-mladezhki otbor in the Rabotnichesko Delo newspaper. Matches in Romania 26- 5-1959 Oraşul Stalin XI Oraşul Stalin 2-5 28- 5-1959 Rapid Bucureşti Bucureşti 1-0 1- 6-1959 Petrolul Ploieşti Bucureşti 2-2 NB: Petrolul Ploieşti were champions of Romania at the time; Rapid played at the top level, as did Steagul Roşu from Oraşul Stalin (the contemporary name of Braşov); the venue of the first match is given as "Staline" in [SB 85] and Slatina in [Naï 08]; however, the town of Slatina did not have any club playing in the top-3 tiers of the Romanian league structure at the time (although exactly 100 clubs played there in the 1958/59 season), so most likely the mention of Slatina is due to the author not being able to place "Staline" and instead choosing a city name resembling it; as an aside, [Naï 08] identifies the opponents in the second match once as Rapid and twice as Dinamo Bucureşti; both [SB 85] and [Naï 08] wrongly identify the final opponents as Petrolul Bucureşti. Matches in Hungary 3- 6-1959 Komárom County XI Tatabánya 5-5 6- 6-1959 Budapest Youth Budapest 5-3 10- 6-1959 Miskolc XI Miskolc 6-3 NB: the first opponents were given as Komárom megyei szakszervezeti bányász vegyes csapat by Nép sport ("Komárom county trade union miners combined team") but may have been identical to local top level club Tatabányai Bányász SC; the second opponents were listed as a "Food industry trade union selection" (match venue was Üllői úti pálya); Miskolci VSC played at the Hungarian top level in 1958/59 but were relegated at the end of the season. Match in Poland 16- 6-1959 Textile Trade Union XI Łódź 4-5 NB: the home team was practically identical to ŁKS Łódź, who played at the Polish top level; [Naï 08] lists the result incorrectly as 4-4; [SB 85] has the result correct but lists the venue (roughly phonetically in French) as "Houtch". Matches in Soviet Union 23- 6-1959 Admiralteyets Leningrad Leningrad 2-2 28- 6-1959 RostSelMash Rostov Rostov na Donu 1-2 2- 7-1959 Metallurg Zaporozhye Zaporozhye 5-3 5- 7-1959 Chernomorets Odessa Odessa 3-4 8- 7-1959 Torpedo Kharkov Kharkov 2-0 13- 7-1959 Vietnam Youth Moskva 5-0 NB: Admiralteyets, RostSelMash, Metallurg and Chernomorets all played at the second level of the Soviet league structure at the time; Torpedo (at the time the second best club in Kharkov after second level side Avangard) won promotion from the third to the second level at the end of the 1959 season; the result of the match in Zaporozhye is given as 5-3 in Russian sources but as 5-2 in both [SB 85] and [Naï 08]; the latter wrongly identifies the first opponents as Zenit Leningrad (then a top level side). Matches in Czechoslovakia 17- 7-1959 Košice XI Košice 2-1 19- 7-1959 Kežmarok XI Kežmarok 6-0 [listed as "Kachmarouk"] 22- 7-1959 Hodonín XI Hodonín 6-3 24- 7-1959 Jihlava XI Jihlava 4-1 NB: of the above towns, only Košice had a club (Jednota) playing at the top level; RH Jihlava, Slovan Hodonín and Slavoj Kežmarok all played at the third level. NB: at the end of the 1959 European tour, the FLN team was supposed to represent Algeria in the 7th World Youth & Students Festival in Vienna (July 26-Aug 4) and was drawn in Group B with the Soviet Union, Iraq and an Austrian team, but it seems Algeria withdrew fairly late on. 3-10-1959 Tunisia Tunis 8-0 NB: this match is missing from both [SB 85] and [Naï 08] but possibly was erroneously included among the "training" matches played in April 1958. 11-10-1959 Tripoli XI Tripoli 4-2 Tour of China and North Vietnam Matches in China 18-10-1959 Shenyang XI Beijing 4-0 21-10-1959 Beijing City XI Beijing 2-4 25-10-1959 Tianjin XI Tianjin 1-5 31-10-1959 Shanghai XI Shanghai 2-0 4-11-1959 Guangdong Province XI Guangzhou 3-3 Matches in North Vietnam 8-11-1959 Vietnam Army XI Hà Nội 5-1 12-11-1959 Hải Phòng XI Hải Phòng 7-1 15-11-1959 Hňn Gai XI Hňn Gai 4-0 [Hňn Gai now part of Hạ Long] 19-11-1959 Nam Định XI Nam Định 7-0 22-11-1959 North Vietnam Hà Nội 5-0 NB: opponents in first match in Hà Nội listed as Workers of Physical Culture by Xinhua News; this may have been the de facto North Vietnam national team. Match in China 13-12-1959 Shanghai XI Shanghai 1-0 NB: the last match does not appear in the list of either [SB 85] or [Naï 08]; instead, both include a match on 29-11-1959 in Beijing against a Beijing XI, tellingly also won by 1-0, which does not appear in contemporary Chinese sources (in contrast to the Shanghai match listed here). early 1960 Libya Benghazi 7-0 20- 5-1960 Tripoli XI Tripoli 1-1 22- 5-1960 Tripoli XI Tripoli 5-0 27- 5-1960 Benghazi XI Benghazi 2-0 29- 5-1960 Benghazi XI Benghazi 5-2 Second Tour of Eastern Europe [XIs may in fact have been leading local club sides] NB: general note for all matches in Eastern Europe: the "Trade Union" tag for many of the teams probably was a label of convenience to get around the moratorium on matches between the FLN side and FIFA-affiliated teams. Matches in Yugoslavia 12- 3-1961 NK Rijeka Rijeka 4-1 15- 3-1961 Zagreb XI Zagreb 0-3 19- 3-1961 Maribor XI Maribor 1-1 22- 3-1961 Tuzla XI Tuzla 9-0 29- 3-1961 Yugoslavia Olympic Beograd 6-1 NB: NK Rijeka and Dinamo Zagreb played at the top level of the Yugoslav league structure at the time; Sloboda Tuzla were a second level club while NK Maribor earned promotion from the third to the second level at the end of the 1960/61 season; opponents in the last match identified as national team by [Naï 08] but as olympic side by [SB 85]. Matches in Bulgaria 2- 4-1961 Stara Zagora Trade Union Stara Zagora 1-1 5- 4-1961 Sofia XI Sofia 1-3 9- 4-1961 Dimitar Burkov Targovishte 7-0 - 4-1961 Veliko Tarnovo XI Veliko Tarnovo 3-1 [listed as "Ternov" or "Turnov"] - 4-1961 Ruse XI Ruse 3-4 NB: Stara Zagora (Beroe) and Ruse (Dunav) had clubs playing at the top level at the time; Veliko Tarnovo had a club (Etar) at the second level; Dimitar Burkov (later renamed Svetkavitsa) played at the third level; the second opponents are given as Sofia XI in [SB 85] and as combined Sofia trade union team in Rabotnichesko Delo, but it included at least four regular players of the national team which [Naï 08] lists as opponents. Matches in Romania - 4-1961 Galaţi XI Galaţi 3-3 - 4-1961 Bacău XI Bacău 2-2 - 4-1961 Oradea XI Oradea 4-4 - 4-1961 Trade Union Youth XI Bucureşti 5-2 NB: [Naï 08] has second opponents as Braşov; [SB 85] has Baccav, Braov and Brasov but [IT 84] confirms Bacău; that last source also identifies the last opponents as the "Selecţie sindicală de tineret" rather than the national team beaten according to [Naï 08]; at the time, Dinamo Bacău were a top level team whereas Dinamo Galaţi and CS Oradea both played at the second level of the Romanian league structure. Matches in Hungary 1- 5-1961 Komárom County XI Oroszlány 6-2 [listed as "Oroskozi"] 3- 5-1961 Budapest XI Budapest 2-2 7- 5-1961 Győr XI Győr 2-4 NB: the first opponents were listed as Komárom megyei bányász-válogatott ("Komárom county miners selection") by Nép sport, the second as szakszervezeti válogatott ("Trade union selection"; match venue was Fáy utca) and the third as Győr szakszervezeti válogatott ("Győr trade union selection"); the result of the match in Győr is incorrectly listed as 2-3 by both [Naï 08] and [SB 85]. Matches in Czechoslovakia 11- 5-1961 Spartak Plzeň Plzeň 2-3 13- 5-1961 Praha XI Praha 4-1 17- 5-1961 Dynamo Žilina Žilina 2-3 - 5-1961 Banská Bystrica XI Banská Bystrica 3-1 NB: Spartak Plzeň and Dynamo Žilina both won promotion from the second division at the end of the 1960/61 season; CH Banská Bystrica remained at the second level (the town had no club at the first level); the result of the second match is incorrectly given as 2-1 in [Naï 08]. NB: in addition to the above matches, six more matches were played in Libya in December 1961, for which the FLN side was split into two teams, with the first playing regional selections and the reserves playing club sides from the host cities; in total six matches were played (two in both Benghazi and Tripoli and one in both Darna and Misurata) of which five were won and one was drawn, with a reported overall goal record of 33-6. Overviews NB: based on the above list of results; the summary on page 183 of [Naï 08] (given as comparison) suffers from several inaccuracies (quite apart from the incorrect results identified above); note that the team played various other (training) matches in both Libya and Tunisia which are not documented in either [Naï 08] or [SB 85]. Pd W D L GF-GA Year(s) According to [Naï 08] Matches in Bulgaria 9 3 2 4 20-15 1959 and 1961 9 4 2 3 21-16 1959 Matches in China 6 3 1 2 13-12 1959 5 2 1 2 12-12 1959 Matches in Czechoslovakia 8 6 0 2 29-13 1959 and 1961 8 6 0 2 34-12 1959 Matches in Hungary 6 3 2 1 26-19 1959 and 1961 6 3 2 1 31-18 1959-61 Matches in Iraq 6 6 0 0 34- 5 1959 6 6 0 0 34- 5 1959 Matches in Jordan 4 4 0 0 33- 5 1959 4 4 0 0 34- 1 1959 Matches in Libya [*1] 10 9 1 0 46- 7 1958, 1959 and 1960 8 7 1 0 34- 5 1958-60 Matches in Morocco 6 6 0 0 27- 7 1958 6 6 0 0 33- 5 1958 Matches in North Vietnam 5 5 0 0 28- 2 1959 5 5 0 0 28- 2 1959 Match in Poland 1 0 0 1 4- 5 1959 1 0 1 0 4- 4 1959-61 Matches in Romania 7 2 4 1 19-18 1959 and 1961 7 2 4 1 21-18 1959-61 Matches in Soviet Union 6 3 1 2 18-11 1959 5 2 1 2 14-11 1959 Matches in Tunisia [*2] 7 7 0 0 39- 4 1958 and 1959 8 7 1 0 29- 4 1958 Matches in Yugoslavia 5 3 1 1 20- 6 1961 5 3 1 1 20- 6 1959-61 [*1] without the last six matches in December 1961. [*2] includes the first three matches in April 1958, although various other similar training matches are missing from the overviews in [Naï 08] and [SB 85]. Total 86 60 12 14 356-129 [according to [Naï 08]: 83 57 14 12 349-119] Total (including Dec 1961) 92 65 13 14 389-135 [according to [SB 85]: 91 65 13 13 385-127] To assess the actual strength of the FLN team (and put the customary accolades into some perspective), we look at their results in Eastern Europe in a bit more detail. By Country Pd W D L GF-GA Year(s) Matches in Bulgaria 9 3 2 4 20-15 1959 and 1961 Matches in Czechoslovakia 8 6 0 2 29-13 1959 and 1961 Matches in Hungary 6 3 2 1 26-19 1959 and 1961 Match in Poland 1 0 0 1 4- 5 1959 Matches in Romania 7 2 4 1 19-18 1959 and 1961 Matches in Soviet Union 6 3 1 2 18-11 1959 Matches in Yugoslavia 5 3 1 1 20- 6 1961 Total 42 20 10 12 136-87 1959 and 1961 Those 42 matches can be split according to the presumed level of opposition: 1) against first division sides or selections of cities represented at the top level; 2) against lower division sides or selections of cities with no top level representation; 3) against other sides (sometimes wrongly claimed to have been national teams). It is assumed that the first matches played in 1959 in Bulgaria and Romania were in Dimitrovo and Oraşul Stalin respectively and thus involved top level opposition rather than third or fourth division sides; the 1961 matches in Sofia and Budapest seem to have involved city rather than national "trade union" selections and are therefore included in the first category rather than the third. Neither assumption changes the overall conclusion. By Level of Opposition Pd W D L GF-GA Year(s) First Level Opposition 20 6 6 8 46-48 1959 and 1961 Lower Level Opposition 18 10 4 4 69-33 1959 and 1961 Various Representative XIs 4 4 0 0 21- 6 1959 and 1961 Total 42 20 10 12 136-87 1959 and 1961 The only possible conclusion is that the FLN side was roughly on a par with an average Eastern European top flight club team; their big wins were all against lower level sides (in fairly small towns like Kežmarok, Targovishte or Tuzla) or against age-restricted representative sides (Romanian Trade Union Youth, Vietnam Youth and Yugoslavia Olympic).
As the formation of the FLN team was a political issue, information published around it was (perhaps inevitably) coloured and subject to a certain amount of mystification; for an (attempt at an) objective presentation of the events and the motives and roles of the individuals and organisations involved, the third author of this file recommends the excellent exposition by Rory de Groot ([Gro 16], in Dutch), which also qualifies some of the statements in the history section above.
Prepared and maintained by Neil Morrison, Hassanin Mubarak and Karel Stokkermans for the Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation
Authors: Neil Morrison (matches; firstname.lastname@example.org),
Hassanin Mubarak (history; email@example.com)
and Karel Stokkermans (matches and analysis; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last updated: 11 Jul 2022
(C) Copyright Neil Morrison, Hassanin Mubarak, Karel Stokkermans
and RSSSF 2004/22
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