Salim Khelif, the Fennecs fan who has never missed a match in Algeria

This quadra of Gennevilliers will be at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille, Tuesday, October 15, to see his team face Colombia.

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Salim Khelif in Gennevilliers (Seine-Saint-Denis), on October 14, 2019. Mustapha Kessous

He took the train at 7:46. Breakfast in Lille. Descent to the hotel of the players to recover a ticket. "A small kebab", as he says, and then place at the party with the friends and supporters of the opposing team. Salim does not want to lose any second of this particular day: tonight, Tuesday, October 15, at 21 hours, his team Algeria face Colombia in friendly stadium Pierre-Mauroy in Villeneuve-d'Ascq (North). Event ? The Fennecs had not sweated on a French lawn since 2008. "Anyone who can not go to Algeria will finally see the players. It will be a little less jealous »he rejoices.

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How to contradict it? The 40,000 places available were sold in forty-eight hours. Tonight, the stadium is sold out and the champions of the African Cup of Nations (CAN) will play somehow at home. "Ah Algerians in France, there are many (more than 800 000, according to a count of INSEE) " smiled Salim Khelif. This big quadra, the stripe on the side, white and green tracksuit, could speak about the hours of freedmen of the Desert Warriors. He knows the course of each player, the score of each match, the name of the arena of each meeting … His modest apartment, at 14e floor of a small tower Gennevilliers (Hauts-de-Seine), is similar to a museum dedicated to the jerseys of the Fennecs of all eras. "None came out of the store, they were all worn by playershe insists. Some gave them to me directly; the others, I managed to catch them when they threw them towards the stands at the end of a match. "

Two packages of Pepito

To listen to him, to support the Greens would be almost a national duty. His love for the selection comes from the Algerian war, more precisely from the moment when players like 29-year-old Mustapha Zitouni, defender of Monaco or Rachid Mekhloufi, 21, the beloved striker of Saint-Etienne, had 1958 left their club to clandestinely join Tunisia to form the "Eleven of Independence". The football team of the National Liberation Front (FLN) who had sensitized the world – and the French! – to the revolution. "They gave everything, everything lost, everything sacrificed. Encouraging our team means having a thought for them and for all those who have fallenhe explains. Even though I was born in France, and I'm part of the generation "Nutella-to-hot"I can not let it go without supporting Algeria. " One day, he met Mekhloufi on the forecourt of the Defense "And I stayed talking with him for twenty minutes before kissing him on the forehead", he recalls.

On the kitchen table – overlooking the Eiffel Tower – two bottles of Ifri, Algerian brand of soft drinks. "It's a part of the country"he laughs, using a glass. Beside, a crumpled ticket of the match Algeria-Democratic Republic of Congo (1-1) that took place on October 10 in Blida. He comes back. In reality, Salim never misses (almost) a meeting in Algeria. All his money goes there. "Buddies spend their money on great trips, I follow the Fennecs"he explains. It's his pride. He does not roll on gold, however, sparing his life: security agent the week, football coach at Epinay-sur-Seine the weekend (Seine-Saint-Denis), he caps at 1,300 euros per month .

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He began to follow the national team in the late 1990s: preparation camp in France, friendlies … He made several CAN, was pebbled by Egyptian fans in 2009 in Cairo, paid a taxi, still in the Egyptian capital, with "Two packets of Pepito"… His travels and meetings with Green stars are recorded in a photo album that he always keeps close to him. "I do stuff for these players. We are their family, that's why they must respect us "he adds. And he is happy when one of them recognizes "Salim, the supporter of Gennevilliers"as he is nicknamed.

"Stand in check"

He says he has a special relationship with the coach of the Greens, Djamel Belmadi, he saw start selection in 2000. The latter, he says, offered him places or jerseys like the one worn on October 6, 2001 , during the match against France at the Stade de France (4-1). That evening, Belmadi had scored the only goal of the Greens. Salim was in the stands when Algerian fans stepped on the pitch, interrupting the match at the 76e minute. "There are people who came from Algeria and confiscated the party"he regrets.

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This evening's friendly match against Colombia is, for him, "A test match". "If the fans stand in check, and they must behave well, there will be a Algeria-France in France. But if supporters come on the pitch, it will mean that they do not respect their nation, they are not Algerians and they will not see Algeria play in France "says Salim.

He sincerely hopes to see a match between Algeria and France, "Algeria of coursehe says. We can then finish the party we started in 2001 ".


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