Algeria Country Profile

Algeria: The Desert Foxes

Record in International Competitions

TournamentAppearancesBest Result
FIFA World Cup4Round of 16 (2014)
Olympics2Quarter-Finals (1980)
Africa Cup of Nations18Champions (1990, 2019)
African Nations Championship1Fourth Place (2011)
African Games7Gold Medal (1978)
FIFA U-20 World Cup1Quarter-Finals (1979)
FIFA U-17 World Cup1Group Stage (2009)
Africa U-20 Cup of Nations6Champions (1979)
Africa U-17 Cup of Nations1Runners-up (2009)


The first football clubs in Algeria were founded by European settlers at the end of the 19th century. In 1921, the first Muslim-founded club emerged, Mouloudia Chaàbia d’Alger, today known as MC Alger. The team’s usage of the color green represented its Muslim and Algerian identity, with football growing to be a domain of resistance to French colonial authorities. Football matches resembled the tense atmosphere leading up to Algeria’s war of independence, as the sport was enjoyed by all groups of people in the country.

In the midst of the Algerian War, Algerian footballers made a notable statement. Ten Algerian players who played for the French national team covertly left the World Cup team to start a team in Tunisia that represented the National Liberation Front (FLN). Many Algerian footballers played a role in the FLN, and this representative team became the pre-cursor to the national team that was formed following independence in 1962. While the French prevented the team from gaining recognition by FIFA, the FLN team played around ninety matches in three continents.

The FLN team being greeted before an exhibition against North Vietnam by North Vietnamese Prime Minister, Pham Van Dong. The FLN team was not recognized by FIFA and could not compete in international competition.

The independent Algerian national team got off to a slow start in African football’s initial years. 1980 saw the start of positive results for the Desert Foxes when they finished runner-up in the Africa Cup of Nations, losing to hosts Nigeria in the final. Qualifying for the 1982 FIFA World Cup for the first time, Algeria surprised many by defeating defending champions West Germany, but were the victims of a conspiracy. With the Algerians having played their final group match a day earlier, West Germany and Austria purposefully played to a 1-0 West Germany win to ensure both sides advanced. Known as the “Disgrace of Gijón”, from then on FIFA ruled that the final matches in the group stage must be played simultaneously.

A brilliant creative midfielder, Lakhdar Belloumi is Algeria’s all-time appearance leader. He won African Footballer of the Year in 1981 and scored the winning goal against West Germany in 1982.

The civil war from 1991-2004 impacted all of Algerian society, including football. Algeria’s results suffered and their standing within CAF was reduced for a period that stretched beyond the conclusion of the war, emphasized by two failures to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006 and 2008. However, a turn around in fortunes coincided with the professionalization of the domestic league and increasing recruitment of French-born talents to star for the national team. The past decade has been a golden era for Algerian football, with World Cup qualifications in 2010 and 2014. A run to the knockout round in 2014 ended with defeat to Germany in a hard fought match that ended 2-1 after extra-time, and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt ended with victory on rival soil. Algeria’s spot as a regular contender for top spot in CAF has been solidified through their recent successes.

Manchester City player Riyad Mahrez is the current captain of the Desert Foxes.

Ligue 1 Professionelle

Organized football has been going on in Algeria since 1904, but the national league format has gone through a few evolutions. After a couple of years with regional leagues following independence in 1962, a national league was formed by taking several teams from each region. The league took its most significant step in 2010, when the decision was made to professionalize the league. The ability of the league to produce talent and compete with teams from neighboring North African countries has increased in recent years, but still lags a bit behind the powerhouses of Egyptian, Tunisian, and Moroccan football.

A positive in the professionalization of Algerian football is that clubs can dedicate more resources to youth development. As of the 2019-20 season, the Ligue 1 Professionelle only has two foreign player slots, so that teams can focus on giving young domestic players a chance. AC Paradou has been an example of a smaller Algerian team that improved its standing by focusing on youth development. In 2007 the club partnered with the former head of Ivorian team ASEC Mimosas, Jean-Marc Guillou, to use new methods to train their youth players, leading eventually to continental qualification. Algeria generally doesn’t have much of a reputation for producing players through youth academies. If the league can continue to improve its level of professionalism, it can build a real reputation as a development league.

Prominent Clubs

CR Belouizdad

Chabab Riadhi de Belouizdad are one of Algeria’s historical clubs, returning to prominence by emerging as champions in the Covid-19 shortened 2019-20 season. Known to their fans as “The Great Chabab”, this nickname came to define the club following their success in the early years of the Algeria’s national league. Led by the late Hacéne Lalmas, his spell at the club (1962-1973) saw CRB capture four league titles, three Algerian Cups, and three Maghreb Champions Cups. The peak of this era was the 1969-70 season, where by winning all three competitions, CRB completed the Triple.

Based in the Belouizdad quarter of Algiers, CRB have always had a large group of dedicated fans even during rough times. The 1980’s and 1990’s saw a long period without trophies, resulting in one season in the second division following relegation in 1988. However, the club has reorganized in recent years and is returning to its historical status as a yearly contender.

Former CRB and Algeria star Lacéne Lalmas

ES Sétif

Entente Sportive Sétifienne, known as “The Black Eagle”, have their roots in Algeria’s struggle against French colonialism. The club was the second club founded in Algeria in 1958 during the Algerian Civil War, following a ban that the colonial government instituted on Muslim clubs. Before the club was founded as an institution, an early version of Sétif played a French Army team in 1945. The team and their white and green jerseys were banned by the French following the match due to the color scheme’s similarity to Algeria’s revolutionary group, the FLN. From then on, Sétif has competed in black and white to commemorate the day their original jerseys were banned.

Sétif started out as a prominent club after independence, and achieved the double in the 1967-68 season by winning the league and the Algerian Cup. Despite maintaining success in the cup through the years, it wasn’t until the second half of the 1980’s when the club became a force in African football as well as Algerian football. Following a league title in 1987, the club was relegated in the next season for the only time in its history. However, while competing in the second tier, the club was able to capture the 1988 CAF Champions League, being the only African side not in its country’s top division to do so. Since 2000, the club has consistently been competing for titles in Algeria, and captured an additional CAF Champions League title in 2014.

Messaoud Koussim scored in the finals of Sétif’s 1967 and 1968 Algerian Cup triumphs. While still playing, Koussim was president of the club from 1972-1977.

JS Kabylie

JS Kabylie are the most decorated team in Algerian football with 14 league titles, five cups, and six continental triumphs. They are based in the northern region of Kabylia, an area known for being the historical center of Algeria’s Berber-speaking population, the Kabylie people. The club’s success and symbolism is a source of pride for the group, who have politically been at odds with the Algiers-based government since independence. This tension came to the forefront when JS Kabylie won the 1977 Algerian Cup as JS Kawkabi, a name they were forced to adopt a few years earlier when president Houari Boumedienne banned club names that referred to regions. Even though the match was in Algiers, Kabylie’s fans booed the president and sang patriotic songs as the Algerian anthem played, further cementing the club’s distinctive identity.

The club have enjoyed consistent success in Algerian football, although league titles have eluded them since the professionalization of the Algeria’s Ligue 1 in 2010. However, a couple of runner-up seasons in recent times along with consistent top-half finishes has kept their reputation stabilized.

MC Alger & USM Alger

Two prominent clubs from the capital city make up the Algiers Derby: MC Alger and USM Alger. Both clubs have seen a high level of success, with eight Algerian Cups and 15 league titles between them. Both clubs are known for having lively atmospheres at their matches because of the fanatical support of the fans. While USMA have achieved more recent league success with a title two seasons ago, MC Alger have won the CAF Champions League and the majority of Algerian Cup finals between the two. The rivalry between the two goes back to pre-independence years, the first meeting occurring in 1940.

A scene from the Algiers Derby

Former players from Algeria’s top clubs

CR BelouizdadES SetifJS KabylieMC AlgerUSM Alger
Hacène LalmasMessaoud KoussimDjamel MenadOmar BetrouniDjamel Zidane
Islam SlimaniAbdelmoumene DjabouLounès GaouaouiAli BencheikhBillel Dziri
Djamel TlemçaniKamel AdjasMahieddine MeftahZoubir BachiHocine Achiou