Photo courtesy of union-foto.de
If this is the reaction an international call-up can bring then maybe 1.FC Union should try and get a job lot of Vatican City papal endorsed Passports. A Schlosserjung (how Unioners refer themselves and each other) finally meets up with the (Luxem)bourgeoisie. It‘s not class war (sorry to disappoint), but it is in fact Union's all-time top scorer Karim Benyamina‘s call up for the Algerian National squad for the first time. The first time for him, but not the first time that a Unioner has had the honour of an international appearance.
That he did receive a five minute call-up last year was brutal, like being shown a new cut of Watership Down with an added rape scene. It must have been heartbreaking to be so close to a World Cup jaunt, even as a benchwarmer. He certainly could have had some fun against the pitiful England team that Algeria met in the group stage. Just to have been a part of the Egypt play-off match would have been something. It was so massive they had to play it in Sudan. Tensions were stoked higher than a Little Willie John vocal.
Algeria are currently 33rd in the world rankings, which means that Benyamina could be playing international football for a nation three places above Sweden, hence making him a better striker than Zlatan Ibrahimovich. OK, the comparison might not stand up, but it's a fun game. Zlatan would hate it, which makes it all the better
Benyamina has been playing himself back into some excellent form in recent weeks, the call just helped add a little sparkle and that all important confidence boost. On Sunday against Oberhausen his two goals came crucially at the end of each half, and this is at a time when Union have been looking as shoddy in the box at times as a Hannah Montana action figure. He was coolness personified rounding Sören Pirson in the dying seconds to secure the three points.
In fact, the peculiar thing is that it had taken this long this season for Benyamina to get going, as at times he has looked thoroughly fed up with toiling away. He was dropping deeper and deeper, just chasing around or finding himself marooned on the right trying to just get the ball. At times He looked as pissed off as (his dad would probably have been among them) the Algerian fans in 1982 who were cheated out of the chance to reach the second round of the World Cup as Germany and Austria played out their infamous match ('played', being the wrong word – 'fucking ambled through it' may be closer) with which a 1-0 result for Germany would take both sides through. It was a scandal, and the closest the desert foxes have come to the second round. If it had been France against Egypt in that game it would have started a war.
Algeria could use his goals too; among the current squad the only recognised strikers to have scored for them is AEK Athens‘ Rafik Djebbour. Wolfsburg‘s Karim Ziani and the captain, Bochum‘s Antar Yahia have five each. These two will be very useful to have around in his new exalted circumstances, too, as he says his Arabic is patchy at best.
I like Benyamina, the only time I met him he wore a grin so cheeky you could put a pair of leather chaps on it and sent it to the nude rodeo. He has also scored possibly one of the finest goals I have ever witnessed in the flesh (a volley last season against Paderborn that was positively Van Basten-esque). Usually he is a bit more comparable to Jermain Defoe, fast and happy to run at defences, but with a wink. I also like the way that he thinks driving a Harley makes him look cool. A bit of an enigma is our Benyamina, a striker with an ego is what Union has needed these last few weeks, and where he could have thrown his toys out of his sports car, he has knuckled down. On Sunday he was everywhere.
So it may only be against Luxembourg, but everyone has to start somewhere, and they are enough to have had one of the greatest footballers ever to grace a pitch in Allan Simonsen as a former coach. It is the last fixture of the year for Algeria, before they face a massive game in March against perennial rivals Morocco in qualifying for the African Nations Cup. If Karim can take his chances like he did on Sunday then there is every chance he could become a hero in the country of his father's birth.