Flag of Algeria
This was originally published on Quora on March 5, 2016 as Laura Hale’s answer to How was Algeria able to win both the men’s and women’s titles at the 2016 IBSA African Goalball Championship?
Algeria was able to win both the men’s and women’s titles at the 2016 IBSA African Goalball Championship for two reasons. The first is there was no real depth of competition, especially from countries with histories of vision impaired sports. The second is that Algeria has a history of doing well at vision impaired sports in general. This network gives them an advantage in building out their goalball program.
The competition featured four countries that sent both men’s and women’s teams: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt. Côte d’Ivoire also sent a team, but it only participated in the men’s competition.
Egypt has a long history of participating in goalball. The men won bronze at the 1988 Summer Paralympics in Seoul and the 1992 Summer Paralympics in Barcelona. They won silver at the 1984 Summer Paralympics in New York. Following the 1988 Games though, there was a gap in African participation in goalball at the Paralympic Games, with no African teams participating again until 2012. When a team re-appeared, it was not Egypt but Algeria, who were eliminated in the quarterfinals after making it out of group play. Tunisia and Morocco have never had goalball teams at Paralympic Games.
The most recent IBSA Goalball World Rankings from August 2015 had Algeria as the top ranked African goalball team. They were tenth on the men’s side. Egypt was ranked 27th while Morocco was ranked 34th, Rwanda was ranked 47th, Ghana 50th and Kenya was ranked 67th. On the women’s side, only Algeria was ranked and they were ranked 30th.
None of these countries have as long and a deep history of supporting blind people institutionally in the same way that Algeria has, though Tunisia does have a larger population of blind people than found in most Western countries. Egypt’s situation has been complicated a bit by the ongoing political revolution, which has diverted resources to other areas. Tunisia’s situation is a bit complicated by differing levels of support for men and women with disabilities, and by efforts by the government and NGOs to treat disabilities as medical issues and not use integrative approaches for people with disabilities.
Algeria has a history of doing well in vision impaired sports on the Paralympic level, and has consistently sent VI competitors to the Paralympic Games. They also have one of the longest histories of playing goalball on the Paralympic level of all African teams. Algeria made their Paralympic Games debut at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, where they sent a men’s team. Algeria’s other VI athletes at the Paralympic Games include Youcef Boudjeltia and Hocine Saadoune who competed in track and field at the 1996 Summer Paralympics where Boudjeltia came away with a silver medal. It also includes 1996 judoka Abdelkader Belaouni and Mohamed Meghnai.
Omar Benchiheb and Hakim Yahiaoui represented Algeria at the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney. Omar Benchiheb represented Algeria again at the 2004 Games, this time winning bronze in the Men’s T11 1,500 meter event. Hakim Yahiaoui won silver in the men’s F13 discus. Hichem Fellahi and Redouane Merah were other VI track and field competitors for Algeria at the 2004 Games. Algeria had two judoka at the 2004 Games, Sidali Lamri and Messaoud Nine. Nine won gold in the men’s up to 90kg class.
Redouane Merah and Zine Eddine Sekhri represented Algeria at the 2008 Games in Beijing in athletics. Sekhri won bronze in Men’s T13 800 meter event. The Algerian judo team in 2008 included five competitors, with Sidali Lamri winning gold in the men’s up to 66 kg and Mouloud Noura winning gold in the men’s up to 60 kg event.
Algeria’s VI competitors brought home more medals at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London. Abdellatif Baka won gold in the men’s T13 800 meters. Lynda Hamri won silver in the women’s F13 long jump. The VI athletics team also included Firas Bentria, Djamil Nasser, Zine Eddine Sekhri and Nacer-Eddine Karfas. Algeria also sent a goalball team, the first African team to compete at the Paralympics since 1992. Algeria sent three judoka, all of whom won bronze.
Beyond this, people with vision impairments have long been one of the most visible disability groups in Algeria, and some of the best organized. Algerian inventors have also been at the forefront of developing assistive tools for people with blindness in Africa. The country has 24 specialized schools for the blind. While people with disabilities receive a small government supplement of 4,000 DZD, they do receive a supplement. The country has had National Day of the Braille Book events since 1993. National efforts to integrate people with blindness in society have been taking place since 1977. Sports has played a role in these efforts, more so than other countries. Legal protections for people with Algeria are also slightly better and less gender discriminatory than a number of other African countries.
These two factors give Algeria a tactical advantage in developing and recruiting a program that can develop elite vision impaired athletes who can win continental championships like the 2016 IBSA African Goalball Championships and Paralympic medals.