England Couldn’t Overcome the Battlers of Algiers

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In an attempt to get themselves amped up for their match against England, the Algerian side watched the seminal 1966 film, The Battle of Algiers. Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, an Italian communist, it’s a rousing, unflinching epic about the Algerian resistance to French rule, set in the winding warrens of the famous Casbah of Algiers. The film portrays the deeds of insurgents and French paratroopers with grainy, pseudo-news reel footage and has become cult viewing over the years for students in universities (including yours truly). It was also screened in 2003 by the Pentagon, which wanted to educate its officials and officers on counter-insurgency in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. “It was very moving, and it was very moving to spend the time together. This is the kind of thing we need to do to feel together,” said Hassan Yebda, an Algerian midfielder. Ultimately, Algerian revolutionaries in the city of Algiers were quelled by a ruthless French crackdown in 1957. But the stalemate, as the film shows, eventually would give way to Algeria ousting its colonial masters. After England ground out a dire 0-0 draw with the Algerians, the Americans must hope they won’t be the latter day imperialists to truly take the fall.