Amidst the political corruption and economic inflation, football in Algeria played a key part in bringing together the people.
Gathering in stadiums to support the national football team was a key form of the public being united and committed to the same cause – wanting Algeria to win.
We used to fill football grounds hours before kick-off, with some supporters even sneaking in their lunch and dinner through the turnstiles just so they could get a decent view of the pitch.
110,000 people arrived to watch Algeria vs Serbia in March 2010 at the 5th July Stadium. The Serbian players went out onto the pitch early, to take pictures of the crowd because they couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
But now, that’s all gone. We open the doors for free at half-time. More fans came to watch domestic football in Algeria than when the national team are in town.
There are more empty seats than bums on seats. The dramatic atmosphere, the 12th man, has all gone. Now, even football divides the people. It leaves a sour taste in their mouth.
So who, or what, is responsible for this diabolical mess? It all stems from the top – and in Khereddine Zetchi. This is a man who is using the team for his own personal gain.
Having come from Paradou AC, he is looking to use the football federation and the powers that come with it as a way of selling Algerian footballers into Europe.
Zetchi has failed to turn up at any Algerian football match this season in the league. With economical priorities, he has turned a hugely successful project into a sour poison. The small amount of fans that do turn up start cheering for the opposition.
Things are only going to get worse with him at the top. We are merely scratching the surface. National squads are including the wrong players. Arguments are taking place in the dressing room. Insults are being thrown at press conferences.
We can only hope that one day, we get our pride back and our team back. I support the team and want them to win every game. But things have to change behind the scenes – and fast. I dread what the Portugal result will be.