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Ahcene Lalmas: Tribute to Algeria's football star of the century

Ahcène Lalmas is regarded as the best Algerian footballer of all time.
by AB. lahouari
ALGIERS, July 11,2018 - Algeria’s best footballer of all time, Ahcène Lalmas, passed away as a result of a long and painful illness. But who was this striker who wrote the best pages of Algerian football’s history and became the pride of the whole African continent?

"Sometimes, I curse the fences that separate me from the public." These were the words of the best Algerian footballer of all time at the end of an interview that I had with him in the early 70s. He could no longer stand the opposing teams’ supporters’ attacks towards him. But, he added with modesty at the same time: "Yet the Chabab (Chabab Belouizdad, a football club based in Algiers) is a bigger whole. I am only a player among others."

A speech that made his numerous fans throughout Algeria smile. Among these players, the only one who made them dream was him, Ahcène Lalmas. Surrounded by talented men like Djilali Selmi, Ahcene Achour, Ahmed Arab, Mohamed Nassou, he helped the club to reach the top level in North African and continental football. Designated as footballer of the century, Ahcene remains one of the references of this sport in Algeria.

He symbolizes the history of football during the first decade of the Algerian independence. Adulated at the “Chabab de Belcourt” - the club that he led to three North African titles in a row (1970-1971-1972) - and by all youth. He is the only Algerian player to have scored 14 goals during an official match. He scored 28 with "Les Verts", reaching the Top 5. His record did not stop there. He reached four Algerian championship titles (1965, 1966, 1969, 1970) as well as three Algerian Cups (1966, 1969, 1970).

He was only 19 when he was called for the first match of independent Algeria against Bulgaria (2-1) by the coaching crew composed of Abdelkader Firoud, Smaïl Khabatou and Abderrahmane Ibrir. He was then wearing the jersey of “OM Ruisseau”, a club in the district of Algiers.

Courted by Barcelona and Milan

Ahcène Lalmas was one of the most complete players of the African continent thanks to his game cleverness, his leadership skills, his decisive accelerations and his striker abilities. Nevertheless, Lalmas turned down several offers coming from prestigious professional clubs such as Barcelona, AC Milan, Nantes and St.-Etienne. More than money and fame, he wanted to give happiness to the fans.

His football career even became a political subject. In the streets of Algiers, one could read written on the walls: "Lalmas and Sonatrach (Algeria’s national treasures) are not for sale!" The player took no benefit from his fidelity, maybe because of his shady temperament. His outspokenness sometimes pushed him too far and made him have some enemies in the football world. But Lalmas’s nature cannot be changed.

Until the age of 31, he remained loyal to football. After his playing career, he started a coaching career with the “Chabab” club. In 1970, he won his fourth national title in this new role. He then moved to the Nasr Hussein Dey club which gathered many promising players: Ali Fergani, Mohamed Kheddis, Meziane Ighil, Mahmoud Guendouz or Rabah Madjer. These men became, afterwards, key players of the Algerian national team. These boys born in 1982 (Belloumi, Assad, Gamouh and others) could see themselves in their coach.

Ahcène Lalmas was appointed several times as National Technical Director. Thanks to his experience, he always was a useful advisor for the Algerian football authorities.

On July 11, 2010, Ahcène Lalmas suffered a stroke. He then led an eight-year long battle before his death on July 7, 2018. A huge crowd accompanied him to the Garidi cemetery, his final resting place.

Goodbye Ahcène and thank you for the joy you gave to several generations of football fans.

Ahcène Lalmas
Born in Algiers, 12th March 1943
International striker
Clubs: CR.Belouizdad, US Santé, NA Hussein Dey, l’OM Ruisseau.
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