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Algerian Football Team in Paris, First Time Since 1962 Independence - 2001-10-06

Game scheduled to begin at 1845 UTC

For the first time since Algeria's independence from France in 1962, French and Algerian soccer teams were set to face off Saturday night in a match in Paris. Although it is considered a symbolic watershed, the match comes amid heightened security concerns.

The soccer match at the Stade de France in northern Paris is being toasted as an historical event between two countries whose relations remain tense, 40 years after Algeria's war of independence.

During the bloody, 1958-1962 war against French occupation, Algerians playing for French soccer teams sneaked out of France, and formed Algeria's first independent team. French and Algerian teams have not played against each other since.

Individual Algerian players have made peace with France long ago. Almost half of those playing on Algeria's team Saturday night, for example, also play on French teams during the rest of the year. And France's star soccer player, Zinedine Zidane, is of Algerian origin.

Mr. Zidane, known as Zizou to his fans, is expected to play on the French side during the match despite a leg injury. In remarks to French newspapers, he said he was proud to be participating in the match - both as a Frenchman and as an Algerian.

The timing is especially propitious for Mr. Zidane, whose family comes from the Berber region of Kabylie. After months of demonstrations by Berber rights activists, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced this week that the Berber language would become official.

Beyond the soccer field, French-Algerian ties are still rocky. Paris has yet to meet Mr. Bouteflika's demand to apologize for its colonial past. And reports of French brutality during the civil war continue to haunt France.

The soccer match also comes amid increased security concerns, following the September 11 terrorist attacks on America. According to French media reports, French police arrested four men allegedly linked to Algeria's GIA guerrilla group, in an apartment in the Paris suburbs.

The reports said police suspected the men were planning an attack at the soccer match.