Algeria goes into ‘Battle’ at World Cup

Pontecorvo pic used as motivational tool for soccer team

Helmer Gillo Pontecorvo’s “The Battle of Algiers” was dusted off and used as a major motivational tool by the Algerian national soccer team during its World Cup run.

Team coach Rabah Saadane, seeking to fire up his boys after they were defeated by Slovenia, arranged a screening of the gritty 1966 guerrilla warfare classic before his team faced England on June 18.

And it achieved the desired effect — underdog Algeria held England to 1-1 draw.

“I had never seen this film before. It was very moving; and it was very moving to spend the time together,” Hassan Yebda, Algeria’s 26-year-old midfielder told the U.K.’s Guardian paper.

The effect wore off in Algeria’s next match, which the U.S. won 1-0 in a cliffhanger match on June 23 that ended Algeria’s World Cup ambitions.

Still, it proved the pervasive and enduring power of Pontecorvo’s realistic depiction of the Algerian struggle for independance from France.

This may be the first time the film has provided inspiration for a peaceful activity: In 2003, the Pentagon screened it for its Special Operations officers to prep them for the low-intensity conflict during the Iraqi insurgency.

The guerilla tactics in the pic are said to have been instructive for the Black Panthers, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, the Baader-Meinhof Gang, and even the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front.

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