Algeria won the Africa Cup of Nations 2019. Not only is their national team really good, but their league is also one of the best in Africa. Algeria Ligue 1 has the highest average fan attendance (don’t ask us for data) and is very competitive.

We got, journalist, Walid Ziani to tell us more about what makes Algeria tick. And some of the areas the country can improve on. Read the interview below.

Hi Walid Ziani, start by telling us more about yourself.

I am an Algerian and African football journalist with DZFoot who has been covering African football in varying capacities for over 15 years now. I am currently based in Canada but return quite often to Algeria.

Algeria has been selling a lot of talent abroad. This is uncharacteristic of North Africa. What has changed about youth development over there?

Ramy Bensebaini
Bensebaini is one of the new generation talents produced by Algerian youth football program

The success of players like Islam Slimani, El Arbi Hillel Soudani, Zinedine Ferhat and, more recently, the Paradou academy graduates like Ramy Bensebaini and Youcef Atal has opened the eyes of clubs and scouts in Europe to the talent that exists in Algerian football. There’s more clubs, scouts, agents looking at Algeria, and there are now networks in place to export those players to Europe. 

What is your opinion on how Tunisian clubs are raiding Algeria Ligue 1 for players?

You can’t blame Tunisian clubs for trying to bring in the best players from the region, they are doing what’s best for them and their league.

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More than anything, it should serve as a wake-up call for Algerian clubs and football authorities to ensure that our players have the best conditions in our domestic league. When you see so many players leave Algerian football for Tunisia, you have to start asking the question as to what’s wrong with our own football.

And why do you think Egypt and Morocco are not buying players from Algeria?

Amir Sayoud
Amir Sayoud was the last high profile Algerian to be signed by an Egyptian club

Egypt and Morocco have a much bigger domestic player pool to recruit from compared to Tunisia, which has a population of only 11.5 million. Plus, Algeria and Tunisia have much closer ties historically. And most Algerian clubs usually spend their training camps in Tunisia.

Algeria Ligue 1 is very well supported & Algeria has a relatively well-off population. Why is the domestic league unable to compete with their North African counterparts financially?

The economic policy of the Algerian government, a centralized economic model dominated by state corporations, simply does not allow it; nor does it incentivize clubs to grow financially. As long as Algerian football is wholly dependant on government and corporate handouts, and clubs don’t have a viable business model, we will continue to lag behind our neighbors financially.

Why do Algeria Ligue 1 clubs have comparatively fewer corporate partners? (compared to Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia) 

I don’t think that’s true. Algerian clubs tend to have many corporate and business partners supporting the club. In fact, without that money the clubs would not survive.

Algeria has been renovating and building stadiums but we still see artificial pitches and terraced stands all over. What is not being done right?

Constantine Stadium
‘before’ and ‘after’ state of Constantine Stadium

Natural grass pitches require constant maintenance, as well as a proper drainage system. Those are two added costs, one recurring, compared to laying down a new artificial pitch every few years. It really comes down to money, but also lack of technical know-how with respect to upkeep.

Vent to us about the TV Broadcast situation in Algeria.

The television broadcast situation in Algeria is simply put catastrophic. While other leagues around the world are televising their matches in 4K all over the world, matches in Algeria are still being televised in standard definition. Some of the older stadiums also don’t allow for a proper filming angle. For the most part, Algerian TV simply chooses to live in the past and continue providing us with 90s era picture quality.

Surprisingly, Algeria has a poor CAF Confederation Cup record but strong in CAF Champions League. Why do you think this is the case despite the fact that the gap between Algerian clubs is typically small?

There are two reasons. Firstly, many Algerian clubs who have qualified for the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup have indicated that the competition is not a priority for them because the financial reward simply isn’t worth the cost and travel time. We’ve seen many clubs in the past field weakened teams in this competition. Even this year, Paradou basically aligned their reserves for the final 3 games of the group stage, despite being in a good position to advance to the quarter-finals.

READ: 10 BIGGEST CLUBS YET TO WIN THE CAFCL 

The second reason is that when the smaller clubs qualify for African competition, they tend to lose their best players to bigger clubs or abroad before the group stage starts. USM Bel Abbes won the Algerian Cup in 2018 and have since list more than the starters from that match like Bouguelmouna, Zouari, Tabti, Belahouel, Bounoua and more.

When will MC Alger do something in Africa?

With MC Alger’s fan base and financial resources, the club should be one of the giants of African football. Unfortunately, the club is run very poorly, with no long-term planning or vision. The club is a victim of its own popularity, there is constant pressure to succeed and ‘win now’. So, the club is constantly applying band-aid fixes instead of a proper long-term plan.

Finally, which Algeria Ligue 1 club do you support?

My family has always been divided: CR Belouizdad on my father’s side, USM Alger on my mother’s side. I also have a soft spot for JS Kabylie, due to my Amazigh heritage, and Paradou AC, which is doing tremendous work producing players right now.

You can follow Walid Ziani on Twitter (@bylka613_) to discuss more Algeria Ligue 1 and CAF Champions League 😉