Algeria: 12 die in World Cup qualifying rejoicing
Algiers, Algeria • Raucous celebrations after Algeria qualified for the 2014 World Cup finals were linked to the deaths of 12 people and some 240 injured, authorities reported Wednesday, as soccer-mad fans poured into the streets and revelers raced their cars and honked.
Women ululated in joy and people waved Algerian flags in victory after the North African country defeated Burkina Faso on Tuesday night.
In a country where political rallies are ill-attended without some kind of financial incentive, nothing gets people into the streets like a soccer championship, with celebrations for ordinary club championships going on well into the night in some neighborhoods.
Most of the injuries and deaths were young men in traffic accidents, according to emergency services, typically from speeding around crowded city streets or the rain-slicked winding roads in the mountains.
Five fans were killed when their van slid off the road into a ravine in the mountain town of Bejaia, east of Algiers, while four others died in the southern city of Biskra when two trucks collided, according to a statement from emergency services.
In Bouira, southeast of the capital, a vehicle carrying a family skidded off the road, killing a 10-year-old. Eight other passengers, including four children between the ages of 3 and 8, were also injured, said the state news agency.
The remaining two deaths occurred in the towns of Tipaza and M'Sila. Much of the north of the country was blanketed with heavy rains Tuesday, exacerbating the dangers of driving.
It is the country's fourth trip to the World Cup and follows closely on its 2010 appearance in South Africa.
Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and other members of the government lunched with the victorious team on Wednesday. The absence of ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was noted as another sign of his increasing infirmity following a stroke in April.
The 76-year-old president was nominated by his party Saturday to run for a fourth term.
Some Croatian fans cheer WCup with pro-Nazi chants
Zagreb, Croatia (AP) • Croatia's World Cup qualification celebrations have been overshadowed by apparent pro-Nazi chants by some fans and defender Joe Simunic.
Croatia qualified for the World Cup with a 2-0 win over Iceland on Tuesday. Video footage shows Simunic taking a microphone to the field after the match and shouting to the fans: "For the homeland!" The fans respond: "Ready!"
That was the war call used by Ustashas, the Croatian pro-Nazi puppet regime that ruled the state during World War II when tens of thousands Jews, Serbs and others perished in concentration camps.
The Australian-born Simunic, who faces possible suspension by FIFA, defended his action after the match.
"Some people have to learn some history. I'm not afraid," the 35-year-old Dinamo Zagreb defender said. "I did nothing wrong. I'm supporting my Croatia, my homeland. If someone has something against it, that's their problem."
In a statement released Wednesday on Dinamo Zagreb's website, Simunic rejected "any political context of my statement which was driven solely by my love toward my people and my country, and not by hatred and destruction.
"The thought that anyone could associate me with any form of hatred or violence terrifies me," the statement added.
The same chant coupled with the Nazi salute has often been used by Croatian fans in the past. FIFA and UEFA have sanctioned the Croatian Football Association because of their past behavior.
Two weeks ago, FIFA fined Croatia $38,000 for incidents, including fans making salute gestures during its other match in Zagreb, a 2-1 loss to Belgium on Oct. 11.