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Beyond Borders Diagnostic: The Petit Maghreb

Posted on January 6, 2014

The Petit Maghreb - Tunisia

Algerian football blogger and writer for,, and Maher Mezahi introduces’s latest series – a diagnostic on Egypt’s North African rivals ‘The Petit Maghreb’.

The Petit Maghreb has traditionally been at the vanguard of African football. Unlike the majority of African nations, , , and had the wherewithal and footballing infrastructure in place to excel right out of the gates of colonialism.

The young, Bourguiba-backed Tunisian boys of the 60s and 70s quickly made their glorious and indelible marks on the African landscape. In fact, my father still shudders hauntingly when reminiscing of that Tunisian golden generation. Their cat-like goalkeeper Sadok Sassi, who was notoriously dubbed as ‘Attouga’, made a particular impression on my father as he considered the Club African legend the bane of his childhood. Morocco were also precocious pioneers in Africa as they became the first African team to qualify for a World Cup*, and the first African team to advance past the first round of a World Cup. Algeria shocked the world in 1982, when they beat – then European champions – West Germany. Only retrospectively was it learned that the Austrians and their fraternal neighbours West Germany eliminated Les Fennecs via a contrived and controversial arrangement.

After accruing that respect and admiration, most African football obsessives were dismayed to see the recent state of the Maghreb nations. The Carthage Eagles have perhaps been the worst of the bunch. They didn’t qualify for the 2013 African Cup of Nations, and scraped through the first round of World Cup qualification on a technical formality. We can afford Morocco some sympathy as they were tasked the near impossible feat of bettering Cote D’Ivoire in order qualify for the play-offs. It was never an easy task vis-à-vis the Ivorians, who have qualified for the last three mondials. Algeria have almost saved face for North Africa by qualifying for consecutive World Cups, but the acrid taste of underachievement at major tournaments has tarnished and deflated Algeria’s reputation in the international arena.

The three countries are separate entities and they face different challenges and tribulations. Therefore, each of them should be approached on a case-by-case basis. Yet their proximity and cultural kinship allows for a contrasting comparison of current health of the North African footballing climate.

Join in analyzing the happenings of Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria as we diagnose The Petit Maghreb.


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