Foreign players set to leave Algeria

By Maher MezahiBBC Sport
Ghislain Guessan
Ghislain Guessan is hoping to secure a move to Europe

After he was dropped by, Nantes, his boyhood club, Franco-Ivorian striker Ghislain Guessan floundered in the French and Italian lower leagues.

As it became apparent that European clubs were no longer willing to wager on the 23 year-old target-man, he decided to try his hand in Algeria.

The North African league has long proved fertile ground for journeymen or prodigious sub-Saharan talents looking to make a name for themselves and eventually play in Europe.

In 2014 he signed for RC Arbaa and has made a success of the move - this season he has scored 10 goals and made one assist.

Yet as the the current campaign comes to a close, Guessan and 20 other foreign players around Algeria are preparing their respective departures as a new law will force a footballing exodus of sorts.

On 25 July, 2015, the Federation of Algerian Football issued a statement announcing that, effective June 2016, it would implement a law stipulating that foreign players could no longer come to Algeria to play in the professional leagues.

"I did not believe it at first, as every professional league has foreigners and that improves the quality of football," said Guessan.

However, the president of the FAF, Mohamed Raouraoua, rationalised the decision by questioning Algerian clubs' recruitment record.

"Forty-six percent of the 28 foreign players have played less than half of the season," he stated.

"The idea behind signing foreign players is that they are supposed to contribute. There even two players who have not played a single minute. So what is the point? We must ask questions."

Reaction to the federation's announcement has varied.

ES Setif president Hassen Hammar declared that he backed the federation's verdict, as he believes clubs are not recruiting responsibly.

MC Alger president, Omar Ghrib, contested the decision, claiming that professional leagues should not interfere with how clubs make transfers.

"If the federation wants to run the club, they should pay the players," Ghrib said.

While the quality of foreign players has been being closely scrutinised, the FAF's principal justification for the law is a lack of fiscal responsibility.

In February, video emerged of Mohamed Coumbassa, a Guinean midfielder, collecting donations from USM El Harrach supporters because he had not been paid for six months.

To exacerbate matters, it later emerged that Coumbassa had played 18 matches for El Harrach without ever being granted a work permit.

Conversely, CR Belouizdad's Gilles Ngomo is planning his departure from Algeria after spending eight years in the country with three different clubs.

"I had some wonderful years in Algeria. I adapted very well and the people were fantastic," he said.

'Hoping for change'

The Cameroonian midfielder is married to an Algerian and even considered applying for Algerian citizenship in 2012.

He told BBC Sport: "If the law is necessary, then I hope it will improve living conditions for foreign players."

Though the President of the Professional League, Mahfoud Kerbadj, insists that the law pertains to "all foreigners, not just Africans", analysts around the continent believe the law will primarily impact sub-Saharan African players, who will be denied access to a league seen as a springboard to European football.

Another Cameroonian midfielder, Abenego Tembeng, who currently plays for DRB Tadjenanet, told BBC Sport that he had begun planning a move abroad immediately after hearing about the law.

"I started making plans with my agent right away, but while we're waiting for the end of the season, we're hoping something will change," he said,

"I do not know if this law will be temporary. I hope things work out and I can remain with Tadjenanet next season."

But if Tembeng would like to remain at Tadjenanet for another year, Guessan himself has no hope of remaining in Algeria.

After scoring 10 goals in 21 matches for RC Arbaa - and being the leading goalscorer in the Algerian league for much of the 2015/16 campaign - the former Nantes man is looking to play across the Mediterranean basin once again.

"I planned a lot of projects in Algeria. Big clubs here had followed my progress, but now I am going to focus on moving to Europe," he said.

"It is a shame because the Algerian league is not an easy league to play in. If you have success here, you can succeed anywhere."

Top Stories