The historic rivalry that plays out in Algiers derby draws attention from around Algeria [Maher Mezahi/Al Jazeera]

Algiers, Algeria – Derby days in Algeria‘s capital are typically festive occasions.

From the working class neighbourhoods of Bab El Oued and the Casbah to central Algiers, public spaces are brimming with jersey-wearing supporters of MC Alger (MCA) and USM Alger (USMA).

But on Thursday, as the two rival clubs prepared to battle for the local bragging rights, fans seemed more interested in the political arena than the football pitch.

“I love MC Alger, I never miss a match,” explained Abdellaoui, a vendor of football scarves and flags in the Lower Casbah.

“But right now, this is more important,” he added, pointing to an Algerian flag perched on

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