Algeria’s Nelson Mandela Stadium stages first match

Featured image credit: Walid2687/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size

Nelson Mandela Stadium, a new 40,000-capacity venue in Algiers, staged its first match on Saturday as Algeria prepares to host the African Nations Championship (CHAN).

Algeria hosted Ghana in a friendly match at the stadium, with the game ending goalless. The stadium will stage the opening match of the CHAN on Friday as Algeria takes on Libya.

The CHAN is a national team tournament for players who ply their trade in domestic leagues. Nelson Mandela Stadium will also host the final of the tournament on February 4.

Speaking after the match on Saturday, Algeria coach Abdelmadjid Bougherra said: “To be honest, I felt like I was in Europe. The new Nelson Mandela Stadium has good pitches and good facilities.

“I am also happy about the fact that we also have European-class stadiums like I saw when I was a player in Europe with similar atmosphere and facilities.”

Ghana coach Annor Walker said the stadium is a “gem” and should be “cherished by all Africans”.

Following the CHAN, the stadium will host Algeria internationals as well as domestic club fixtures. Algiers-based teams such as CR Belouizdad and USM Alger will use the stadium for some of their home matches.

The Algerian Government announced in December that the stadium would be named after Nelson Mandela, the former South African President who died in 2013.

Mandela held close ties with Algeria, having travelled to the country in 1961 to receive training from the armed forces of the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). In his book Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela stated that his struggle against apartheid was significantly inspired by his time with the FLN.

Upon returning to Algiers, the capital of Algeria, in 1990, Mandela declared that “the Algerian army made me a man”.

Work on the stadium commenced back in 2009 but the project was only completed in October.