By Abdou Tajeddine
Algeria’s legislative election is casting a shadow on Ligue 1 football matchups after sports authorities rescheduled games to avoid a conflict with the May 10th vote.
Sporting officials at first tried to end the championship before the start of elections, instead of May as they do every year. The circumstances forced teams to play a marathon of matches in a short period in order to end the football season before the vote.
Given the difficulties, the Professional Football League (LFP) decided last Tuesday (February 21st) to suspend play during election week but keep the May 15th date for the end of the season.
The decision was made to allow Algerian authorities to conduct the poll in suitable circumstances and mobilise security forces to run the election rather than deploy them to protect stadiums and fans. This is in addition to the laws that prohibit any assembly of fans and players, or rallies of whatever nature during the election period.
According to LFP President Mahfoud Kerbadj, the league found itself forced to observe the instructions of political authorities “so as to end the football season in the best possible circumstances”.
“We’re doing our best to accommodate for the obligations of league and clubs,” Kerbadj said. “We believe that it is impossible to end the season before May 10th, the date set for holding the election. We’ve agreed with the public authorities not to schedule any activities during the week of election, provided that the league and clubs are allowed to resume their activities after the election.”
Although the date scheduled for the end of the sport season has not been changed, the situation is not comfortable for clubs, especially those that have continental matchups, such as ES Sétif, ASO Chlef and JSM Bejaia. The additional games could further exhaust their players.
There are also added burdens for clubs with players on the national team, such as USM Alger, ES Sétif and JS Kabylie. Moreover, the recent tough weather conditions in Algeria and the snowfall on different areas of the country further complicated the situation. The league was forced to cancel several matches and to schedule others for later dates, causing more problems for clubs and the league itself in ending the season at its pre-arranged date.
ES Sétif are leading the table with 37 points, two points ahead of title holders ASO Chlef. CR Belouizdad are in the fourth place with 33 points, just one point behind third-place holders USM Alger. USM El Harrach are still in the 7th place with 29 points, while CS Constantine moved up to the 9th place with 26 points.
The league will award a 1 billion-centime prize to the top football team in Ligue 1, with 500 million centimes going to the winners of the second division.