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Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 17:47 GMT
Zidane visits Algerian homeland
Zinedine Zidane with his mother Malika and father Smail
The Zidane family left Algeria for France in the 1980s
Retired French football star Zinedine Zidane was surrounded by cheering fans as he returned to his parents' homeland Algeria for the first time in 20 years.

He visited an earthquake-hit village in Boumerdes where a project he funded built a school and training centre.

He shook hands with teachers and pupils and inspected a classroom adorned with a giant poster of him and Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Zidane is a hero to many Algerians and the many French of Algerian origin.

Residents shouted "Long live Zidane" as he toured the village of Sidi Daoud.

"I can't believe my eyes - Zidane in my village, in my school and near me in the flesh," one girl said.

Zidane, who retired after this year's World Cup final, in which he was sent off, is expected to kick-off an Algerian league match on Thursday.

He travelled with both his parents, who moved to France in the 1960s and is also due to visit the village of their birth Aguemoune, in the Kabylie region.

"Zidane is a hero. He grew up in France but all Algerians have to be proud of his career," university student Malika Djeddi, 23, told Reuters news agency.

"He has honoured Algeria and set an example of what Algerian youth should be."

The region of Boumerdes, east of the capital, Algiers, was devastated by an earthquake on 21 May 2003, killing more than 2,000 inhabitants and injuring about 10,000.

Zidane helped organise a match later that year between the French national team and Marseille, the city where Zidane grew up, to raise funds for victims of the earthquake.

Crowds greet Zinedine Zidane in Algeria

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