Algerian soccer fans had their own Zidane, long before Zinedine Zidane burst onto the scene in France. Djamel Zidane was an inspiration to the illustrious Frenchman in his formative years. His Kabyle ancestry explains his two-footed appearance. A great deal like his French namesake, he is equally dangerous with the ball and equally comfortable in front of the goal posts.
In addition to nine seasons with hometown club USM Alger, Djamel Zidane learned his trade in the youth teams before making his professional debut in the Algerian second division in 1972. “He made an immediate impact,” says Nasser Guedioura, a former international teammate. “We won two Algerian Junior Cups together, and we were part of the team’s promotion to the first division.”
Djamel Zidane, regarded as the country’s best young player, departed for Europe in 1976. Having tried his luck in the French and Belgian lower divisions, the playmaker fell in love with the Belgian top-flight during seven years with KV Kortrijk and then KSV Waterschei, winning the league’s award for the best foreign player.
He was an ever-present figure for Algeria’s national youth teams. Algeria beat Albania 1-0 in a friendly match in January 1975, and Djamel Zidane made his debut in the green and white senior national team. He went on to make 15 appearances for The Desert Foxes, including five at the 1982 World Cup in Spain and the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Djamel Zidane World Cup Memories
His return to international soccer would take six long years after making his debut in 1975. This coincided with a golden era for Algerian national team. As the Desert Foxes made their first appearance in the World Cup finals in Spain in 1980, he scored his first international goal in a 2-0 defeat of Nigeria in Lagos.
As part of the World Cup Group 2, Algeria had to contend with three-time semi-finalists West Germany, Austria, and Chile. Even their most optimistic fans did not expect them to win the tournament when they faced off against the mighty West Germans. The North African outsiders, however, took the lead nine minutes after the break when Rabah Madjer managed to turn a Djamel Zidane counterattack into a goal. The Algerians won 2-1, a result which stands as one of the biggest shocks in the history of the World Cup.
Rachid Mekhloufi, Algeria’s coach at the time, talked about his side’s victory in a recent interview with The History Of Soccer. Despite having a talented squad and playing simple soccer, we let the historic win over West Germany cloud our judgment. It was as if the players had already done their job, which was a shame, as they had the potential to do much more.”
How They Were Cheated
West Germany met Austria in the final group match. The match was dubbed as the “Disgrace of Gijón”, one of the worst moments of World Cup history. The day before, Algeria had already played their final group game, and West Germany and Austria knew they would qualify if West Germany defeated Austria by one or two goals, while Algeria would qualify if West Germany defeated Austria, and the Germans would be eliminated if they defeated Austria.
In the 1986 World Cup finals , Djamel Zidane’s overlapping runs caused perennial favorites Brazil all sorts of problems. Even though the lone forward left three Brazilians trailing behind him, the Algerian slaloming run was inspired by the South Americans. He scored his only World Cup goal against Northern Ireland from a free-kick. The North Africans finished bottom of Group D despite the efforts of Zidane, and they have not reached the finals since. Djamel Zidane also played in his last international match against Spain in the last qualifying match.
The efforts of Djamel Zidane have not gone unappreciated by his countrymen. A football academy opened in El-Hachour in January 2006. that was named after the great champion. (Zidane Football Academy) To cultivate the nation’s future stars, it aims to teach youngsters the fundamentals of the game.
“We dedicate all our efforts to educating and training young players, creating an environment where they can grow, and developing every aspect of their training.” explained soccer academy director Farid Bahbouh. “Another key goal is to produce more youngsters like Djamel Zidane,” added the center’s president Youssef Lahlouh.
Algerian soccer will have a secure future if they can achieve that.
Djamel Zidane Facts
- USM Alger (1967-76)
- AS Corbeil-Essonnes (France, 1976-77)
- KFC Eeklo (Belgium, 1977-78)
- Saint-Niklase SK (Belgium, 1978-80)
- KV Kortrijk (Belgium, 1980-84)
- KSV Waterschei (Belgium, 1984-87)
- AC Paizay-le-Sec (France, 1987-90)
- 15 caps, including five at Spain 1982 and Mexico 1986 (4 goals)