Antar Yahia: "Playing the 2010 World Cup on our continent has increased our pleasure tenfold"
Adlène Guedioura, Rafik Halliche, Antar Yahia and Madjid Bougherra (from left to right) during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Phil Cole / Getty Images
Text by: Farid Achache Follow
Antar Yahia, thanks to a goal against Egypt, qualified Algeria for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, after twenty-four years of absence at the international level. For RFI, the former Inter Milan player remembers the 2010 World Cup, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the only edition on the African continent.
RFI: What memories do you keep of the World Cup in South Africa?
Antar Yahia: For us, as Algerians and Africans, it was very important to come back to play internationally. And doing it on our continent has increased our pleasure tenfold. It is an extraordinary memory. It was my first World Cup and when I got there I discovered how much the whole country was waiting for this event. We know the infatuation in Africa for football. There, I realized that the whole country was prepared for this. I had already done an internship in Africa in South. But at that time, I discovered a great country with such nice people. What an experience! And in addition, the Algerian public was with us. In Cape Town, facing England, the stands were full of our supporters. In addition, there have always been good relationships between South Africa and Algeria. The atmosphere of this World Cup left a deep impression on me. It was so festive.
► To read again: Algeria is finally there
How did you approach this World Cup? It was not a vacation! We had personalities in the team who represented a lot for the Algerian people. We had a huge duty. It was a great responsibility.
You were the first to take advantage of the new Fifa law of 2004 concerning sports nationalities *. Will this World Cup in South Africa then push other binationals to choose the green jersey? As you well know, this is a delicate subject. Me, I want to be unifying and not in controversy. For me, the first contacts had been made when I was at Inter Milan in 2000. We had asked Fifa so that I could play with my country. Yes, it opened the door to selection and my generation showed that it was possible. But there were already beginnings at the time like Djamel Belmadi who had not played with the juniors in France. With Karim Ziani, Nadir Belhadj, or even Madjid Bougherra, we wanted to do like Samuel Eto'o or Didier Drogba, to defend the colors of our country. And we did it in the same way as these boys there. Afterwards, the others followed suit, and that's good. And I hope it will continue like this.
The worst memory of 2010 is your expulsion at the end of the meeting from the United States? I think if we hadn't passed the first round, I could have appealed. As captain, I come to separate players and keep them away from the referee. There he puts a second yellow card to me while I am not talking to him. But it's not the worst memory. Finally, I believe there is none. When you dream of being a world player, there can be no worse memory. When you're on the lawn and hearing your national anthem sound, there can't be a worse memory. But on the other hand I believe that there was a taste of unfinished by being eliminated in the first round.
Did the 2010 World Cup mark a turning point for Algerian football? Yes, of course. We returned to the international level and it was a first step forward. This level, our country should never have left it. However, it took twenty-four years to return to the World Cup. In 2014 in Brazil, other boys came, they stayed the course and we did better by playing a round of 16 against Germany. It's a shame not to have been at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. To progress internationally, you have to take part in the World Cup all the time. We won the CAN 2019 and I hope that we will qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. I sincerely hope that coach Djamel Belmadi will take us to Qatar.
► Read again: Algeria for a historic match against the Germans at the 2014 World Cup
In 2010, you had by your side Rafik Halliche who will then play the eighth finals in Brazil and will be crowned African champion in 2019 in Egypt. What a journey!
Ah Rafik! He is our little brother to Madjid Bougherra and to me! When he started with us, he was very attentive. He perpetuated the values of solidarity and group union that we had at the time. I am so proud of the journey he has made.
According to you, compared to the 2000s, Algerian football has grown further? Yes. There are boys who have quite a talent. They are even more technical than in the 2000s. We saw it at the 2014 World Cup or the 2019 CAN . The Algerian player has seen his rating change and it's very good. It must go on like this.
The Fennecs exult after the magnificent goal of defender Antar Yahia (d) against Egypt during the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. Reuters
We are now expecting the next World Cup on the African continent. Who could welcome him? There are candidates and countries that can claim to organize. But I don't know them well enough to know if it's possible for them. As we speak, I cannot come forward and speak. I do not live in these countries. But football is universal and it must return to our continent. Africa has given so much to football through its players. It would be more than legitimate.
► To read again: Antar Yahia, the man from Khartoum bows out
Finally, are we still talking about your goal against Egypt which qualified Algeria at the 2010 World Cup? Yes, whether in Algeria or elsewhere, people often talk to me about it. But beyond this goal, people remember what I was able to put at the service of the national team humanely. I defended the Greens tooth and nail, I never cheated. I believe that goal came just crowned my international career. It's a bit the icing on the cake. I was a homework player and I always did my best.
* In January 2004, a new Fifa decision came into force. It allows a binational to represent one of the two countries of which he has nationality. Antar Yahia is the first player to benefit from this new regulation. He played for the French under-18 team before representing the Algerian team in seniors during the qualifiers for the 2004 Olympic Games.
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