By Mohamed Assed.
Casablanca, 14 August:
It is now official; the . . .[restrict]Libyan National Team will play Algeria in Casablanca, Morocco on 9 September. The game, which accounts for the final round (Round 3) of the qualifiers games to the African Cup of Nations 2013 in South Africa, will not be hosted in Tripoli due, in large part, to security reasons and the fact that the country has now been, for more than a year, armed to the teeth.
Round 3 is the final round of the Africa 2013 Nations Cup Qualifiers. 30 teams take part in this concluding round robin phase, of which 16 will qualify to the event that will take place in less than one year from now, joining automatically qualified hosts, South Africa. The first and second legs of the Mediterranean Knights will be held on 9September and 14October respectively.
The rumour mill had been circulating of late in the corridors of the Libyan Football Federation (LFF) with regards to the identity of the country that will host Libya’s game, with Tunisia and Morocco having appeared the front runners.
In an interview about a month ago with Algerian newspaper Echorouk, the assistant coach of the Libyan National Team, Fawzy Al-Issawi declared, “We have made a formal request to the African Confederation of Football for the reception of the Algerian National Team in either Tunisia or Morocco since we are very uncertain that the game will take place in Tripoli on 9September, especially after the kidnapping of the Libyan Olympic Committee (LOC) president.
“We are very sorry for this situation, as we really wanted to host the Algerians in Tripoli, and wanted to come back to Libya once again, but this is currently impossible in light of the precarious security situation that prevails in the capital and the country as a whole,” Al-Issawi added.
However, the LFF has finally and officially confirmed that the game will be played in Morocco, after the approval of this latter’s football federation to the LFF’s request.
Moreover, fueling the LFF’s decision to delocalise Libya’s game to a neutral stadium was the recent worrying perturbations inside Libya’s training camp in Tripoli from a gang of militias who reportedly stormed unannounced into the training grounds of the national team, brandishing rifles and describing themselves as “Thuwwar” (milita).
The incident added more fuel to the fire and left the National Football Team’s coach, Abdulhafeed Arbich, furious. Such transgressions can only highlight how ill-equipped the transitional government has been in confiscating arms from unlawful militias.
But now that the National Congress has been elected and started sessions, the issue of security poses itself as a prime concern to all politicians. Of equal concern should be – at the very least –the provision of a proper training environment for the national football team, especially after their recent heroics in the Arab Cup and their miracle qualification to the last round of the African Cup of nations.
It is high time that the long-awaited new government set their attention on reviving Libyan sports in general and football in particular.
Indeed, if Libya is to prevail against top-flight teams such as the Algerians, then such support and development will be needed. Our track record when playing the Algerians has never been good. On the contrary, the Libyan national team hasn’t won a game against The Greens (Algeria’s famous nickname) in living memory.
The Casablanca clash next month will be the 27th time that Libya and Algeria lock horns. Of the 26 games Libya’s played against Algeria, it won in only 6 occasions, drawn 7 and lost 13 games. The first encounter was back in 1967 when Algeria beat Libya by two goals to one in an Olympics qualifier game. The last time both teams played each other was more recent, in a 2010 qualifiers game to the Local African Cup of Nations held in Tripoli, Libya. The game was also won by Libya, 2-1.
Libya vs Sudan: preparation for the Casablanca game
The LFF has also announced that the Libyan National Team will play a friendly against Sudan on 24 and 26 August in preparation for the match against Algeria on 9 September. The LFF has also announced that it is adamant about organising the friendly games and for that reason it has made all the necessary precautions to delocalise the match from Libya to Tunisia, should security conditions prove an unavoidable hurdle. It has been reported that the Sudanese national team will fly to Libya on the 21st of this month to play its first and second friendlies on the 24th and 26th in Benghazi and Misrata, respectively.