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Algerian National Soccer Team Cancels Friendly Match Over Ghana’s Israeli Coach

The Algerian national soccer team canceled a friendly match against Ghana in order to prevent Ghana’s head coach, who is Israeli, from entering the country, the Ghanaian news website Pulse reported Tuesday.

Avram Grant, who has previously coached the Israeli national team and the legendary London club Chelsea, has led Ghana’s Black Stars for the past two years. Algerian journalist Ayman Gada confirmed on Facebook that “The Algerian national team canceled the friendly match with Ghana because it refused to host Ghana’s Israeli coach, Avraham (sic) Grant.” The match was scheduled to have taken place in September.

Ghana beat Algeria 1-0 during their last match, which was played at the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea. During that game, Algerian fans were seen in the stands cheering for Palestinians. Algeria has long been a supporter of the Palestinian cause; Palestinian solidarity marches have been common in Algeria in recent months.

This is not the first time a match has been cancelled because of Grant’s nationality. In 2012, when Grant was the coach for Serbian team Partizan Belgrad, the Iranian team Sepahan Isfahan pulled out of a scheduled match, a decision that Grant called “shameful.” The Serbian team had also been set to hold its training camp in Dubai, but Emirati officials refused to grant a visa to Grant; the camp was then moved to Turkey. He left his post as head of the team after just 5 months, citing “personal reasons.”

Similarly, in 2014, an Israeli member of Dutch team Vitesse Arnhem was barred from entering the United Arab Emirates for a training camp because of his nationality. The Dutch team went to the camp anyway, leaving defender Dan Mori behind, a move which earned them criticism from Dutch politicians. Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer was also refused entry to the UAE in 2009 for a competition; the hosts of the championships were then fined $300,000.

Algeria has had a mixed history when it comes to its Jewish population, which at one point numbered more than 130,000 before most left after the Israeli and Algerian wars of independence. The Algerian government declared in 2014 that synagogues that were shut down for security reasons in the 1990s would be reopened. But Algerian Islamists protested the plan, calling for attacks on Jews in order to prevent the “Judaization” of the country. In that same year, videos surfaced of Algerian troops marching while singing about their desire to “turn your guns towards the Jews… in order to kill them… slaughter them… and skin them.”

Algeria was ranked the fourth-most anti-Semitic country in a 2014 Anti-Defamation League survey, with 87% of their population harboring some form of anti-Israel or anti-Semitic beliefs.

Coincidentally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently on a tour of four sub-Saharan African countries—Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda—where he has been popularly received and has announced new security and commercial commitments between Israel and multiple African nations.

[Photo: Clément Bucco-Lechat / Wikimedia]