Algeria reached the knockout round of the World Cup for the first time in its history, so naturally the team received a heroes welcome upon its arrival in Algiers on Wednesday. This open-top bus ride among the teeming masses is pretty inspirational. But then politics crashed the party, as it often does in that part of the world. Here’s a tweet from a journalist who claims to have news from Islam Slimani, who scored the goal that provided a tie with Russia and pushed Algeria to the Round of 16 last week:
Striker Islam Slimani has revealed #ALG will donate their World Cup prize money to the people in Gaza. "They need it more than us."
— Waleed Abu Nada (@waleedabunada) July 2, 2014
Algeria may seem a long way from the latest trouble spot in the Middle East, but the country is pretty much squarely the Palestinians. And its national soccer team obviously is siding against the Israelis, as evidenced by the tweet, and the Palestinian flag you see draped on the team bus above.
Violence in the Gaza region has widened considerably in recent days since the discovery of three bodies of Israeli teenagers last week, believed to have been executed by a Palestinian faction. Rocket attacks, air strikes and at least one revenge killing are already on the books, with no doubt more violence to come. The Algerian soccer team’s reported donation of its prize money is either a grand gesture or just more fuel for the fire — it’s unclear which, at this point. But what is clear is that the tournament that is supposed to bring the world together is once again indirectly providing ways to divide us.
Meanwhile, what’s an Algerian soccer celebration without at least one flare?
Amazing to see the reaction in Algeria to the National Team returning from Brazil. Players must feel like superstars. pic.twitter.com/tWAGJOCNIe
— Messi Minutes (@MessiMinutes) July 3, 2014