Saddam Hussein football chant sparks Algeria-Iraq diplomatic crisis

Saddam Hussein football chant sparks Algeria-Iraq diplomatic crisis
2 min read
11 September, 2018
Algerian football fans have sparked a minor diplomatic crisis with Iraq after the terraces erupted with chants praising former leader Saddam Hussein and sectarian insults during a match.
Hussein was deposed in 2003 by a US-led military invasion [Getty]

Algerian football fans have sparked a minor diplomatic crisis with Iraq, after chants were heard on the terraces during a match praising former leader Saddam Hussein and sectarian slogans.

The controversial incident took place during a game on Sunday between Iraq's al-Quwa al-Jawiya and USM Alger in the Algerian capital Algiers.

The first round match of Arab Club Championship came to an end after the Iraqi team walked off the pitch in protest of the offensive chants from the home spectators.

"Allahu Akbar, Saddam Hussein!" the fans shouted, as well as anti-Shia slogans, The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported.

Hussein, who was deposed in 2003 by a US-led military invasion, remains a divisive figure in Iraq.

He is still revered by many Algerians for his pro-Palestine policies during his over two decades in power.

The incident has prompted the Iraqi government to summon Algeria's ambassador and to demand an apology for the fans' behaviour, Iraq's foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement on Monday.

Ahmed Mahjoub called for Algerian authorities "to avoid anything that would provoke our people by praising Saddam's hideous dictatorial regime".

The head of the Iraqi football federation has threatened to resign and pull out Iraqi teams from the tournament unless the Union of Arab Football Associations [UAFA] takes action over the incident.

The head of the Algerian Olympic committee has issued an apology on Monday, however, no senior official has extended an olive branch as of yet.

The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported on Monday that the UAFA will likely penalise both teams.

This is not the first time Algeria has been involved in a footballing controversy with an Arab country.

In 2009, the North African nations' World Cup qualifying matches with Egypt erupted into a football war with Egyptian businesses set ablaze in Algiers and the Algerian embassy attacked in Cairo.