Q & A with the great Rabah Madjer
Alongside Lakhdar Belloumi, the skilled striker Mustapha Rabah Madjer has been the best Algerian footballer ever, one of the best of whole African continent. He was nicknamed “Allah’s backheel” because of his famous goal in the winning final of 1987 European Cup against FC Bayern Munich, when he played for FC Porto. Madjer has spoken to http://www.goldenfoot.com about Algerian and international football.
Many people think you should coach the Algerian national team. Why did you leave that job?
I didn’t leave the national team. I was fired by the Algerian Football Federation. I was sacked after we drew against Belgium in 2003. The same Belgium side had beaten France 2-1. Unfortunately, I was fired after the match, alleging I spoke against the federation boss in an interview with Brussels newspaper Le Soir. But, in reality, I never spoke to that newspaper. The federation wanted to throw me out and succeeded in it. So, I never left the job. I respect Algeria too much.
Would you like to work with the national team again?
I’m very loyal to my country. I’ve always given everything to Algeria. When I was the national coach, we were on the right path. We created a good team with a mix of players in the domestic circuit and those who were playing abroad, mainly in France. But then, everything was ruined. I’ll always be at my country’s disposal if it needs me.
If you were the federation chief, will you pick a local coach or a foreigner?
I respect everyone, but to be honest, I would choose a local coach. Our coaches and players are respected all over the world. All titles Algeria have won came under domestic coaches. With foreign coaches, we’ve always failed. (Belgian Eric Gerets is in charge of the Desert Foxes). Algerian coaches have the quality, but they need to work in the best conditions.
Would you like to work with the Olympic team?
The Olympic team is very important, almost like the national team. Usually, the national coach picks players from the Olympic team to his squad.
The grapevine is that there’s too much politics in Algerian football…
I don’t think so. Sometimes when a foreign coach comes to work with the national team, not everyone agrees. Most of the people don’t want a foreign coach, because they trust in Algerian trainers, who’ve helped our players over the years.
What’s the way to improve Algerian football?
It’s the national team that helps Algerian football. If it gets good results, the rest will follow. We need to help local players and local coaches. We need to bring back former players and let them coach in Algeria.
Is there a new Madjer in Algeria?
You need to search and I’m sure you can find someone. I haven’t ‘grown up’ in Europe. I’m “Made in Algeria”, thanks to great coaches like Rachid Matloufi, Abderrahmane Soukhane and Abdelhamid Kermali.
Who’s the best among the present Algerian players?
I would say Hassan Yebda, who plays as a central defender for Granada in the Spanish League. Midfielder Karim Ziani, who plays for El Jaish in the Qatar Stars League (QSL), is a real hard worker. French side Sochaux’s attacking midfielder Ryad Boudebouz and QSL team Lekhwiya’s Madjid Bougherra are talented too.
How do you rate your former team FC Porto, who won the Portuguese League and Europa League last season?
Porto are a great team, with great staff. I was so blessed to play for them and all the coaches who’ve worked with Porto have won something invariably. The best element is chairman Pinto Da Costa. He knows how to lead a team, how to buy the right players and how to treat his coaches. That’s why all the coaches from Artur Jorge to Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas won titles.
Your Porto was better than Mourinho’s one or Villas Boas one?
The compare is impossible. We were a great team and we won a Champions League against Bayern Munich, where Matthaeus and Rummenigge were playing. It’s something that did not happen with Mourinho, because they beat Monaco without playing a great football. And Villas Boas won a Europa League against a little team like Sporting Braga.
Is Villas-Boas the new Mourinho?
It’s possible. Mourinho began his career the same way and look what he’s done. I hope Villas-Boas will follow in Mourinho’s footsteps.
Who are the best coaches at present?
In Algeria I was helped by Rachid Matloufiqui, who is one of the best I have ever worked with. Kermali took us to the African Cup triumph and Mohammed Soukhane helped me a lot when I was younger. They were all great persons and great football men. When I arrived in Europe I was very influenced by De Martini in Racing Club Paris and Artur Jorge or Di Stefano. Now the best is Sir Alex Ferguson.he best is Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.
Will you ever coach Porto?
It’s difficult to answer but if they will think about me, it would be an honour and I would say yes. I still have very good relationships with Porto.
Are you still a Porto fan?
Of course, I played there for seven years and I coached the Academy for two. There are memories that I cannot forget, like the Champions League triumph or the Intercontinental Cup in Tokyo. Porto is a second family to me.
What exactly went through your mind after you scored against Bayern in the European Cup final?
It was an apotheosis; I never expected I could score a historical goal like that. Now it’s also the name of that kind of goal. If you score off a backheel it’s a Madjer goal! I saw that goal again and again, and said to myself that it was impossible! Thanks to God, it was a goal.
Who’s your favourite player now?
It’s difficult not to mention (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
What do you feel about racism in sports?
It shouldn’t exist in football because we’re all players, acting for the same show based on fair play.
Interview: Giancarlo Bizzio
Translation: Mattia Fontana