Football's Pioneers: Rabah Madjer
One of the greatest shocks in the men’s FIFA World Cup Finals occurred in the first game of Group 2 on 16 June, 1982 in Gijón, Spain. The match was West Germany against Algeria and the Germans were expecting an easy victory.
Instead, they were blown away by a remarkable attacking display by the Algerians, who overcame the eventual finalists 2-1. In so doing Algeria became only the second African team to win a World Cup match.
One of the stars of the Algerian side that day, and scorer of the first goal after a sweeping counter-attack, was Rabah Madjer. Born in Algiers in 1958, Madjer began his career with local club NA Hessein Dey in 1978. He netted 58 times in 94 appearances and helped his club to lift the Algerian Cup in 1979.
Yet it was the 1982 World Cup that projected him onto an international stage. Algeria beat Chile as well as West Germany and were only denied reaching the second stage by the consequences of a hugely controversial match between the Austrians and Germans.
Facing Brazil's Edinho in Guadalajara during the 1986 FIFA World Cup.
Nonetheless, Madjer became an attractive target for European clubs. He had to fight the Algerian football authorities to relax their ban on players under 25 moving abroad. In 1983, Madjer joined Racing Club de Paris, initially in the French second division but promoted to Ligue 1 in his first season.
After another half season in Paris and a loan spell with Tours, Madjer was spotted by new FC Porto coach, Artur Jorge, and added to a star-studded squad at Estádio des Antes. With Porto, Madjer won three Primeira Liga titles and two Portuguese cups.
But his crowning achievement was the 1987 European Cup title, when Porto came from behind to defeat Bayern Munich 2-1 in Vienna. Madjer set up the winner for the substitute Juary. Yet it was the audacious 77th-minute back-heeled equaliser that will always be remembered.
Madjer helped Porto beat Bayern Munich 2-1 to lift the 1987 European Cup in Austria.
Pelé was quoted as saying it would have been the greatest goal of all time if only Madjer hadn’t glanced back to check that the ball had crossed the line.
Arguably the pinnacle of his career was to come in 1990 when he led Algeria to its first African Cup of Nations victory, on home soil. He retired two years later and, by 1993, was coach of the Algerian national team. Another three spells as national coach (the most recent in 2017/18) unfortunately brought little success.
Madjer, though, is fondly remembered as one of the greatest Algerian and African footballers of all time.
For several seasons, Leicester City Football Club has worked with De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History & Culture on various heritage projects. For more information about sports history at DMU, click HERE.
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