In 1975, Spain relinquished its grasp on the Spanish Sahara, an arid strip of land that sits atop Africa’s northwest shoulder. The decolonization of the territory was perfunctory, as decolonization tends to be, and it set a ticking time bomb. Morocco and Mauritania were expected to maintain joint-administration over the newly dubbed, ‘Western Sahara’, but the local POLISARIO rebels did not consent and quickly declared independence.
Most of the world turned a cold shoulder on the heated conflict, but Western Sahara surprisingly found aid and asylum in Morocco’s historical ally-Algeria.
What began as a territorial dispute had predictably festered into a small war. Geopolitics took centre-stage as bullets were exchanged and casualties gradually accumulated. Morocco challenged Algeria for the border city of Tindouf, an original part of a ‘Le Grand Maroc’ prior to colonization. Conversely, Algeria supplied a reliable stream of arms to the POLISARIO front as they attempted to stave off a Moroccan ‘occupation’.
In a show of patriotism, Moroccan loyalists took to the streets chanting, ‘Un, Deux, Trois, Vive le Roi’, in honour of Hassan II, Morocco’s reigning monarch.
A few weeks later, the Algerian national team played host to Sheffield United at the newly constructed Stade 5 Juillet. A chant of their own emerged.
‘One, Two, Three, Viva l’Algerie!’
What began as a political retort metamorphosed into a battle cry. ‘One, Two, Three’ has hitherto been inherited from generation to generation. It has succeeded Madjer and the Golden Boys of the 80s, suffered through the brutality of Algeria’s civil war, and was at the vanguard of Algeria’s historic 2010 World Cup qualification.
Trying to ascertain deterministic influences for events that unfold in the terraces of stadia is often asinine. The mob mentality can account for whimsical waves of genius, choreography or even cruelty. Yet the fascination of such manifestations is that they are always accomplished in unison. What a group of politically-conscious youth initiated during a friendly versus bland British opposition still unites Algerians all over the world.
It is but one beauty of football.