A nasty spat between an Algerian soccer player and an Algerian reporter took place Wednesday after the U.S. eliminated Algeria from the World Cup with a 1-0 victory.
After playing in what may be his last international match with Algeria, 35-year-old striker Rafik Saifi “slapped the face of journalist Asma Halimi.”
Halimi then returned the favor by reflexively slapping Saifi right back, cutting his lip with her fingernail. Saifi then stormed out of the media area after throwing a water bottle against the wall.
The international media has since done little to dig into why Saifi attacked Halimi in such an aggressive, seemingly bizarre manner.
The BBC reports:
The journalist, who works for Algerian newspaper Competition, said she had a disagreement with Saifi a year ago.
“I will make [a] complaint with Fifa and the police,” she added.
The BBC World Service’s Richard Connelly witnessed the incident in the mixed zone - an area where journalists and players congregate - after the match.
“Saifi took exception to an interview that she translated and published in her newspaper,” explained Connelly.
“There was a similar incident between the two last year.
Halimi says that Saifi threatened that she will come to harm in Algeria.
Dozens of similar reports of the incident have been filed, but none have spelled out what specifically motivated Saifi to attack Hamili.
Martin Rogers of Yahoo Sports reports:
“I said nothing to him and he reached over and hit me,” Halimi said to Yahoo! Sports. “So I hit him back. I said nothing to him first.”
It is understood that Saifi and Halimi had previously had a difference of opinion over an article she wrote for her newspaper.
Reporter Halimi (apparently) hasn’t exactly been forthcoming in detailing what that “difference of opinion” was, but after investigating the matter today, I’ve dug up why Saifi was so upset.
Last year while playing for a club team in Qatar, Saifa did an interview with a local Arabic-language outlet in which he revealed he was marrying a French woman. It isn’t coincidence that Saifa had previously not made that public in Algeria, which has long been in conflict with neighboring France. (Somewhat akin to the oft-testy relationship between Mexico and the U.S.)
Reporter Halimi found out about the interview and published a translation of it in the Algerian sports daily Competition. That led to the first confrontation between the two late last year.
So between Wednesday’s World Cup washout and Saifi’s already-notorious temper, today’s events were somewhat forseeable. (But certainly not justifiable!)
Why hasn’t any of that been reported? Because Halimi and Saifi aren’t talking, at least at the moment. And the translated interview in Competition isn’t available on the primarily print outlet’s clunky website.
The other factor in the non-reporting may be reporters protecting their own. What Saifi did obviously is reprehensible and inexcusable but his behavior was, at the very least, related to a family matter.
I obtained the story from an American reporter currently covering the World Cup in South Africa who gave me the information on the condition of anonymonity.
Knowing what we know now, Saifi deserves 100 percent of the blame in this case, as he should’ve known when he did the interview in Qatar that there was a chance it would get picked up in his home, Islamic country.
Halimi was just doing her job, which is to cover Algerian soccer to the best of her ability. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if, after she cools off, she decides not to nail Saifi to the FIFA floorboards.