In recent years, Lebanon has been in the headlines as a result of internal conflicts among its various ethnic groups and hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel. However, throughout this time, the country's vibrant social and cultural life has continued — a fact that has received limited attention from academic researchers. One cultural element of Lebanese life is football, the world's most popular sport.
There have been many instances when football played a central role in social and political conflicts, but how does the sport function under fire? For this purpose, I have chosen to look at the way football has interacted with the intercommunal conflicts in Lebanon and its fraught relations with neighbors. These conflicts have often spread to the pitch and stands in the stadiums, and conversely, connections have sometimes developed into alliances outside the sport. The encounter within the stadium has become an opportunity to find ideological partners and forge connections under the regime's radar.
This article examines the Lebanese football scene in the period 2000-15 to address the function football plays and what ends it serves. How does the sport influence civilian life, foreign relations and the economy? Does football protect the regime or is it rather an "own goal" that unites its opponents? Is football controlled by the regime, or is it an egalitarian autonomous sphere? Can a study of what goes on in the stands reveal anything about events outside the stadium?
My analysis will show that football is a significant dimension in the day-to-day life of the Lebanese man in the street as well as the regime, which exploits the sport to achieve its aims. Similarly, by analyzing video segments and correspondence in online fan forums, primarily social networks, I will show that the voices of Lebanese football fans, including their methods of expressing support of favorite teams — cheers, songs, publications and chants at rallies — are platforms for transmitting messages and methods of expression that deserve scholarly attention. They are sometimes the fans' only opportunity to express themselves in public.
THE SOCIAL FIELD
It was in the late nineteenth century that foreign faculty members at the American University of Beirut introduced football to Lebanon in physical-education classes. Unlike in other countries, where football emerged from the grassroots, the sport was cultivated by the educated elite and at first was played mainly in Christian schools. It began to grow in popularity during the French mandate after World War I and, over time, university students created local sports clubs that morphed into political ones. However, the penetration of Lebanese football by politics weakened it, stymied cooperation, and harmed the national team, which never chalked up major international success. Similarly, the politicization of football enhanced the status of clubs that were supported by major politicians, at the expense of the sport's general level and quality.1
In 1933, the Lebanese Football Association (LFA) was founded, and the Lebanese Premier League began to function. In 1936, the LFA joined FIFA, the international organization, and in 1964, it affiliated with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Due to frequent fighting in the country, the Premier League's season has been cancelled 27 times, either before it began or in the middle, especially during the civil war of 1975-90, when 14 seasons were cancelled, including 12 in a row. The 1958-60 seasons were also cancelled, due to the first civil war, when Lebanese football did not yet receive adequate support from the state.2
The years 1974-75 were considered the zenith of Lebanese football. Two important events occurred then — the victory of the Nejmeh ("star") Sporting Club over the Soviet champion Ararat Yerevan, and the arrival in Beirut of Brazilian champion Pelé to participate in a friendly match between Nejmeh and a team of Lebanese Premier League stars. When Pelé arrived, crowds jammed the streets to see him; on the day of the game, 40,000 spectators packed the stadium from early morning. Pelé's game in Lebanon is considered one of the peak moments of Lebanese football. It was held a week before the outbreak of the civil war, which put an end to most sports activity. After Beirut was split in two by the Green Line, the religious communities were cut off from the clubs with which they were associated.
After the civil war, many players from poor families joined sports clubs without reference to religious identity, leading to the formation of mixed Shiite-Sunni clubs. Like the postwar rehabilitation of society and the economy, football, too, was revived. New investments in facilities led to a higher level of play and greater prestige for the sport. In 2000, Lebanon hosted the AFC Asian Cup, and in 2005, Nejmeh made it to the finals of the Asian Champions League. In 2006, al-Ansar (Supporters) beat the Saudi al-Shabab (Youth) team 3-0, one of the greatest international victories by a Lebanese team.3
At the end of the civil war, the country's sports clubs required financial assistance, which they received from politicians rather than the state. Various political parties decided to fund sports clubs as a way to garner public support. This politicization also functioned in reverse: while fans began supporting the politicians who funded their teams, these politicians' supporters began rooting for the teams they funded. Political disagreements were translated into verbal and physical disagreements in the stands, leading to tense matches every week. The spectre of violence in the stands led to a 2005 ban on spectators at football games, out of fear that clashes could lead to another civil war.4
Hassan Ayoub, a Shiite who played for the Christian Hekmeh (Wisdom) club, complained that violence and racism hurt Lebanon's football players and might cause the sport to collapse. When he played for the Druze al-Safa (Purity) club in the late 1990s, Ayoub scored a winning goal that elevated the team to second place in the league and demoted al-Taḍamoun Sur (Solidarity Tyre) to the second division. The fact that a Shiite player on a Druze club caused the demotion of a Shiite club sparked intense criticism from Shiites in the country. Violence spread to the basketball arenas, which are generally calmer than the football stadiums. For example, during a game between the Sunni al-Riyaḍi (Athletic) and the Shiite al-Irani (Iranian) basketball squads, the Lebanese fans cursed Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and sang the praises of Umar ibn al-Khattab (the second of the Rashidun caliphs), who is hated by Shiites.5
In 2006, Lebanon was scheduled to host the West Asian Football Federation Championship, but it was canceled after Hezbollah's kidnapping of Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser sparked the Second Lebanon War. Approximately 1,500 people were killed during the hostilities, including Yasser Aldin, a member of the Lebanese national youth team. Massive destruction in the Shiite south did not spare property related to football; the home of Lebanese "goal king" Mohammad Qasas, as well as many football fields, were destroyed. The league cancelled the season in response to demands from a number of clubs and the refusal of many foreign players to enter Lebanon — to say nothing of the internal fighting. The LFA decided not to give in to violence, but "rather to choose life" and begin the season as usual. Lebanon's hosting of the championship tournament was rescheduled for the next year, but was canceled definitively as a result of the fighting in the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.6
The Lebanese national team's highest FIFA ranking was in 1998: eighty-fifth in the world. After that, Lebanese football deteriorated, bottoming out in 2011 at 178. After Theo Bücker of Germany was hired to manage the team, it climbed back to 111th place, before falling again. Under Bücker, the team had its most successful campaign ever in the 2014 World Cup, when it almost qualified.7
After the season ended in February 2013, a match-fixing and gambling scandal was uncovered that implicated more than 20 Lebanese footballers in collusion with a betting syndicate in Bangladesh. The players included national-team stars Ramez Dayoub and Mahmoud al-Ali, who were banned for life. According to Bücker, only several suspicious bad passes and missed goal attempts, some of them at an empty goal, kept the national team from qualifying for the World Cup. Lebanon's name was stained again when two Lebanese assistant referees were banned for life after accepting sexual favors in exchange for fixing games in the Asian Champions League.8
All over the world, and especially in Lebanon, sports clubs have been born out of loyalty to the social group in which they were conceived, whether family, tribe, community, religion or nation. This loyalty makes football emotional, sometimes turning the football pitch into a battlefield. Moreover, the clubs' political affiliations make the sport a fertile ground for social, political, gender, ethnic and national messages. Events related to football can reveal much about a society's ideologies, values and aspirations.9
Lebanon is divided among some 18 religious groups, separated by sharp communal and political lines. In 2012, it was estimated that 54 percent of the country's residents were Muslims, equally divided between Shiites and Sunnis; 40 percent were Christians (21 percent Maronite, 8 percent Greek Orthodox, 6.5 percent Greek Catholic and 6.5 percent other denominations); 5.6 percent were Druze; and the remainder comprised small communities of Jews, Bahais, Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons. Today the country's religious groups are arrayed in two political camps: the March 14 Alliance — an anti-Syrian group that includes the Future Movement (Tayyar al-Mustaqbal), the Hariri family, the Druze and some Christians — and the March 8 Alliance, a pro-Syrian group that includes Hezbollah, Amal and the Maronites. The clubs are also ethnically and politically divided between these two camps.10
Today there are four active football frameworks in Lebanon: (1) the regular league; (2) the State Cup, founded in 1938, which all the country's clubs compete for; (3) the Super Cup, which pits the league champion against the holder of the State Cup; and (4) the Nukhba Cup, a tournament for the four clubs that finish the season with the highest rankings, plus the State Cup holder and runner-up. There are 12 teams in the Premier League; at the end of each season, two are demoted to the second divisions (with two more levels below that).11 In the 2014-15 season, the 12 clubs in the Premier League were Nejmeh SC, al-Ahed, Safa, al-Ansar, Taḍamoun Sour, Shabab al-Sahel, Racing Beirut, al-Akhaa al-Ahli, Tripoli SC, Salam Zgharta, Shabab al-Ghazieh, and Nabi Shayth. These clubs will be described below, categorized as clubs with a political affiliation, a communal and social identity or neutral.12
POLITICALLY AFFILIATED TEAMS
In 1992, Hisham Sharabi, a Palestinian-American historian, wrote Neopatriarchy: A Theory of Distorted Change in Arab Society. Banned in most Arab countries, it describes a political culture based on a dominant father figure at the centre; the state, like a family, is built around him. Relations within society are those of ruler and ruled, or father and children, and only the father's will counts. The regime is the father of all fathers, standing at the top of the pyramid. The masculine virtues prized in football, as well as the sport's popularity, have made it the ideal neopatriarchal sport.13
Although young people are attracted to football in part because of its patriarchal values, the stadium is also a space where they try to break free of the external rules that govern them. Inside the stadium, they allow themselves to oppose their fathers, their grandfathers and even the dictator. Football is a sort of autonomous political space for young people. It is no wonder that one of the venues where the Arab Spring broke out was the football pitch. In those years, the mosque and the stadium were the only public places where the opposition could vent its anger against the regime, through underground ideologies and anti-regime slogans. Fans took the organizational abilities and fighting experience they had amassed in street brawls and went out to fight the regime.14 The large crowd in the stadium facilitated anonymity, creating a free space for the expression of political opinions and identities that must otherwise be kept under wraps. The football stadium is a place of "rare moments of political electricity when, often for the first time in memory, the hidden transcript is spoken directly and publicly in the teeth of power."15
The political affiliation of some Lebanese football clubs is clear. However, the most conspicuous hallmark of identity is communal affiliation, though it is difficult to distinguish between politics and community in Lebanon. The most intense rivalry in the country — between the Sunni Nejmeh club, associated with the Hariri family and the Future Movement, and the Shiite al-Ahed club, associated with Hezbollah — is based on a real-world split that transcends sports. Over the years, the Sunni al-Ansar club has joined the fray, making it a three-way competition. Because al-Ahed is primarily identified with Hezbollah and only secondarily as Shiite, I classify it as political. So, too, Nejmeh — primarily associated with the Future Movement and only secondarily seen as a Sunni club (despite the demographic diversity of its fans) — has been designated a political club.
Al-Nejmeh (the Star)
Druze and Sunni youths from the Manara neighborhood of Ras Beirut founded al-Nejmeh in 1945. Its name is taken from the emblematic Druze star. In the 1970s, the club was renowned as one of the strongest in the country, winning eight league championships, six State Cups and six Super Cups. It did well in the international arena, too, including victories in major tournaments in the Arab world and an appearance in the Asian Champions League. Its most successful year was 2005, when it qualified for the Asian Champions League final but lost to the Saudi al-Faisaly FC.16
In 1974, after Nejmeh defeated the Soviet champion Ararat Yerevan, former prime minister Saeb Salam, praised the Nejmeh players. He was not the first Lebanese politician to laud the club; a few years earlier, Musa al-Sadr, the dominant Shiite political and spiritual leader, had quoted a hadith when congratulating the club for its success:
Our honored messenger [the Prophet Muhammad] called upon us to engage in sports when he said: "Teach your children swimming, archery, and horseback riding." ... In Lebanon there is great interest in sports among our people. Our country has registered achievements in various fields, and the Nejmeh club has won championships, raising the Lebanese flag aloft in most respected areas.17
Over the years, the club's outstanding Shiite players and coaches have won it the affection of Shiite circles. Yet, the Hariri family's support of the club has made it dear to Sunnis as well. It has become one of the few clubs with fans drawn from every Lebanese demographic: Sunnis, supporters of the Hariri family; Shiites, supporters of Hezbollah and Amal; and Druze and Christians. Nevertheless, there is only so much a club can do. Its Shiite fans are torn when it plays the Shiite al-Ahed team; for them these matches are "internal derbies," in which their favorite team is playing their community's team. The identity crisis is exacerbated by the fact that the club's management explicitly supports Saad al-Hariri, with whom they have a sharp political disagreement. On the other hand, the club's Sunni fans revile al-Ahed on account of ethnic and political differences, and sometimes give violent expression to this hatred. By contrast, Christian fans do not mix politics and sports, caring little whether a player is Shiite, Sunni, Maronite, Druze or Catholic.18
Omar Ghandour, Nejmeh's president from 1969 to 2003, avoided adopting a political stance or taking a side in communal divisions. He even declared them a negative phenomenon that "cannot disappear until national feelings overcome communal feelings among the Lebanese," adding that competition must be in a sporting spirit only. Believing that Nejmeh represented the entire country, Ghandour hired executives from all elements of Lebanese society. After his departure, the Sunni Hariri family began funding and running the club, and the internal division between different communities who support the club was exacerbated. They split into separate camps. Fans began singing different songs in the stands, either opposing Hezbollah or praising Shia Islam. At the end of one of Nejmeh's games, some spectators were filmed celebrating by chanting the pro-Bashar al-Assad slogan "Allah, Syria and Bashar, and that's it."19 Over time, the rival chants became so disruptive that the club was forced to act. In February 2012, its management published an official announcement: "The Nejmeh club community takes no responsibility for the communal chants of a handful of its members. Those who utter them represent themselves alone, and not the Nejmeh club — which is the national club and the club of the homeland."20
Al-Ahed (the Promise)
Al-Ahed was founded in 1964 in the Msaytbeh neighborhood of Beirut, as Nejmeh al-Ahed al-Jadid (the star of the new promise). Until the civil war, it competed in the third division; its players had to help run the club and cover its expenses out of pocket. The 1982 Israeli invasion interrupted its activity until 1984, when it received an official license under the management of Mohammad Assi, one of its players. In 1992, the club's management shortened its name to al-Ahed, giving it a religious connotation: the word al-ahed appears in verse 34 of the Quran, known as Surat al-Asraa (The Night Journey) — "And fulfill the promise." Between 2002 and 2014, it added other sports, including wrestling, martial arts, chess, table tennis, rugby and swimming. In 1996, al-Ahed was promoted to the Premier League for the first time. In 2004, it chalked up its first major achievement, winning the State Cup. Since then, it has had many successes including four league titles, four State Cups, three Super Cups, and four Nukhba Cups. The club's best season was 2010-11, when it attained a "quadruple": the league championship, the State Cup, the Super Cup and the Nukhba Cup.21
Assi, the club's secretary general, is a member of Hezbollah and its supervisor of sports. Lebanese and Hezbollah flags stand beside each other in his office, along with pictures of Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and Hezbollah's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. The link between Hezbollah and the club is overt; most of the members of its management are senior Hezbollah members, and they, as well as the coaches, walk around armed, and Hezbollah security personnel guard its games. After the club won the State Cup in 2005 and 2009 and the league championship in 2015, the players presented the trophy to Nasrallah in appreciation of his efforts to defend the Lebanese people. Hezbollah staged an impressive ceremony for the players that year to celebrate the victory, representing the club's triumphs as its own and attempting to harness them to further an imminent revolution.22
Despite the deep connection between al-Ahed and Hezbollah, the party avoids funding the club directly. Instead, it uses its television station, al-Manar, in the guise of an official sponsorship. Assi has admitted that Hezbollah "helps us sometimes, when we need something for the club, or help in finding a sponsor." In his next breath, though, Assi attempted to deny the club's Shiite identity: "Al-Ahed is not a Shiite club only." Bassem Marmar, the team captain, put a somewhat different spin on the relationship: "In Lebanon, everything is political. Hezbollah supports us. We are with them. But not economically. It is good for them if we win a title. It shows the world that Hezbollah is not only terrorists." But the club's efforts to claim that it receives only moral support from Hezbollah do not accord with the fact that it has the best facilities in the league — two grade-A fields, fancy dressing rooms, a swimming pool and a fitness room. By comparison, Racing Beirut practices on a sand field without nets in a local schoolyard.23
As mentioned above, the main Beirut derby is between Nejmeh and al-Ahed. In recent years, the two clubs have waged a neck-and-neck battle for the league championship, with their games sometimes tied until the last moment. In the last round of the 2009 season, Nejmeh and al-Ahed were again at the top. Nejmeh was up by a point, and a victory would ensure it the title. In the previous round, Nejmeh had beaten al-Ansar 3-0. The welter of political accusations included the charge that this surprising victory came about because both clubs are in the Hariri camp, while al-Ahed is in the rival March 8 Alliance. In the last round, Nejmeh faced off against the Druze club al-Safa; al-Ahed played the Shiite club Shabab al-Ghazieh. A last-minute goal gave al-Ahed a 2-1 victory. The team's players waited on the pitch to hear the results of Nejmeh's match, but were disappointed when Nejmeh pulled a 1-0 victory to capture the league championship by a single point.24 Al-Ahed's disappointed players were leaving the field when about a hundred Nejmeh fans suddenly arrived singing anti-Hezbollah songs and assaulting al-Ahed's players and staff. Media reports of this episode were politically biased on both sides; journalists blamed Hezbollah or the Future Movement depending on their loyalties.25
The championship celebrations were full of sadness; fans held up pictures of Hussein Naim and Hussein Doqmaq, two Nejmeh players killed by a car bomb aimed at a member of the Lebanese parliament in 2007. Players from all the country's teams attended their funeral, dressed in black.26 The chairman of the LFA read out a letter in which Mohamed Bin Hammam, the president of the Asian Football Confederation, wrote that "violence must not be allowed to vanquish football in Lebanon." During the championship celebrations, Doqmaq's father said:
When Hussein was murdered, I said at his funeral that I was willing to give him as a sacrifice only if I knew that his death would bring something of football's spirit of brotherhood to political life in Lebanon. But I was mistaken. There is no brotherhood in our football, only more war, more victims and more hatred. The only thing that is certain is that we will not give up on our country. Today we won a small victory towards the big victory.27
The fans' assault on the al-Ahed players took place a week before the Lebanese parliamentary elections. Not surprisingly, it led to extremely harsh statements from leading figures of both clubs. Bilal Araqji of the Nejmeh administration said that al-Ahed had hoped to win the championship and exploit the victory in the election campaign. He added that Hezbollah would do anything to win the championship, even use force, going so far as to compare the situation to Hitler's use of the Berlin Olympics in 1936.28
In April 2015, shortly before the derby, Nejmeh fans posted the following message on one of the club's Facebook pages:
The al-Ahed club is the leader of corruption in football. … the symbol of communal identity. The al-Ahed club is like politicians in Lebanon. … Does it make sense that you involve Sayyed Nasrallah in sports in order to collect people around you? The Nejmeh club and its fans will continue to be a thorn in your eyes, a symbol of national unity. …29
CLUBS WITH COMMUNAL IDENTITY
Al-Ansar (the Supporters)
The Sunni al-Ansar club, named for the first followers of the Prophet Muhammad, was founded in Beirut in 1948. In 1967, it rose to the Premier League, which was suspended within a decade because of the civil war. When the league resumed play in 1978, al-Ansar became its top team, winning 11 straight championships, a Lebanese and Guinness world record. The club is the most successful in Lebanon, having won a total of 13 league titles, 13 State Cups and five Super Cups. It has also represented the country in Arab and international tournaments. The club was financed by former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri until his murder in 2005. Since then, his son Saad has financed it at an estimated $1.5 million annually, in addition to the family's support of Nejmeh.30
Al-Ansar's fans come from every community and tend not to get involved in intercommunal brawls. They root for al-Ahed against Nejmeh, which they see as their team's most bitter rival, even though both teams are funded by the Hariri family. Al-Ansar's fans cheer for al-Ahed solely on the basis of sports-related considerations. Nevertheless, given the club's funding by the Hariri family and historic association with the Sunnis, it is considered to be essentially Sunni.31
Racing Club Beirut
Racing Club Beirut, founded in 1950, was named for the Parisian Racing Club de France. It has been nicknamed "the Sinbad of Lebanese football" because of the many matches it has played abroad — in Arab countries (Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia), the Far East (China and Hong Kong), Europe (Turkey and Cyprus) and Africa (Ghana and the Ivory Coast). The club is identified with Orthodox Christians and for a while was controlled by the Phalangist party. In 1956, only six years after its founding, Racing Club Beirut won the league title. It won championships in 1965 and 1970, but none since. The club invests in its children's team, which won the championship in 2010. Additional signs of its identity can be seen on its Facebook page, in pictures of the football academy for children and on Christmas and Easter occasions.32
In the derby of the Achrafieh neighbourhood of East Beirut, Racing Beirut faces off against Hekmeh (Club Sportif La Sagesse), founded in 1943 with the sponsorship of Christian clerics. Identified with the Maronites, Hekmeh was one of Lebanon's first football clubs.33 In August 2015, it began planning a state-of-the-art sports complex, to include a football field, a basketball arena, a swimming pool, tennis courts and other facilities, at a cost of eight million dollars. The land on which it will be built belongs to the Christian religious establishment of Lebanon.34
The al-Safa club, one of Lebanon's oldest, was founded in 1933 by a group of young people in the Druze neighborhood of Watah al-Msaytbeh in West Beirut. It represents Lebanon's Druze and the Socialist Party headed by Walid Junblatt, as does the other Druze club in the Premier League, al-Akhaa al-Ahli. It began official competition in 1948 and was promoted to the Premier League in 1962.
The club owes its most significant triumphs to Druze businessman Bahij Abu Hamza. During the years that he managed the club, it won the Lebanese championship for the first time and later added two more, in 2012 and 2013. The club also came in second in the AFC Cup in 2008, in the Lebanese Super Cup in 2014 and in the State Cup in 2013 — 27 years after it had last won the trophy. In Lebanon, football-club directors generally appeal to politicians for financial support, but in this case, the process was reversed; Abu Hamza came to the club at Junblatt's request.35
Abu Hamza tried to set aside politics and communal identification as foreign to sports: "There is a certain reality that we cannot escape. Today we cannot deny that communities or political groups grab hold not only of sports events, but also social, cultural and medical events." His statement reflected the club's aspiration to be "a sports institution in the full meaning of the word." This vision is shared by its fans, who, despite its clear Druze identity, come from all of Lebanon's communities and stand out for their ability to steer clear of communal and political divisions.
Taḍamoun Sour (Solidarity Tyre)
University students from Tyre founded this club in 1939. It was licensed by the Lebanese Football Association in 1947. From the start, it was active in a number of sports, including table tennis, bodybuilding, boxing, weightlifting and especially football. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, several Palestinian refugee camps were established in Tyre, and some of their residents joined the club. In the 1950s, the club participated in international competitions in Syria and Jordan; in 1966, it hosted the Egyptian club al-Ahli.36
As befits its name, before the start of the civil war in 1975, and even more so afterwards, the club's activity extended far beyond sports. It became involved in social action in the 1950s, establishing a number of cultural projects that continue to the present. For example, during Ramadan in 2015, it sponsored iftar meals for its fans and the local Muslim community, at which it presented scholarships.37
During the civil war, Taḍamoun Sour was one of the few football clubs that continued to play, although only in southern Lebanon. After the civil war, too, it continued to focus on southern Lebanon and Tyre, from which it drew most of its players. In 1989, despite economic difficulties, the club, then in the second division, was the runner-up in the State Cup; it was promoted to the Premier League in 1991. In light of its success, the club drew up plans to develop young talent and an economic plan to provide for its new needs. The club set itself the goal of providing cultural and educational solutions to conflicts and disagreements, health care to ward off epidemics and disease, and an organizational rejoinder to personal interests that harm society, perceived as antithetical to the sporting spirit.38 In 2001, the club won the State Cup, breaking the Beirut teams' monopoly and bringing the trophy to southern Lebanon. It came to be called "the ambassador of the south." Most of its fans are Shiite Muslims from southern Lebanon who support Amal, and it came to be associated with that movement. Because the club was considered to be Shiite and sees itself that way, it must be classified a communal rather than a neutral club.39
Shabab al-Sahel (The Young Men of the Beach)
In the 1960s, young men from the Harik neighbourhood of Beirut founded a football team using the sandlot near their homes as their practice field. Their aim was to found a professional sports club and build a school that would produce a new generation with strong moral principles, love for others and respect for the law. In 1966, it was licensed by the Lebanese Football Association. Its first players were from all the Lebanese communities, along with a Spaniard, a Greek and a Palestinian.40
Because it was a neighborhood club, the players and managers contributed from their own pockets to purchase equipment and cover operating expenses. In the 1990s, the club's annual budget had reached $400,000. With this bounty, the club gelled, winning its first State Cup in 2000. Its aims are to build a social institution dedicated to sports, health and education, sponsor diverse sports activities, and renovate its stadium to host tournaments and be used by other clubs. Shabab al-Sahel never became politicized and is not connected with any party or personality. Because it is located in al-Ghabira, a southern suburb identified with the Shiites, it has become associated with them.41
Homenetmen and Homenmen
Homenetmen and Homenmen are Armenian Catholic clubs. Homenetmen has won seven league championships, but later sank to the third division and currently plays in the second division. Although both clubs have a common ethnic identity, they are political rivals. Homenetmen represents the right-wing Armenian Tashnag party, whereas Homenmen represents the left-wing social-democratic Hunchak party. In practice, the Armenian derby between the two teams is one more example of the deep divisions in Lebanon, where even ethnic groups are split by internal political divisions.42
Al-Mabarrah (Charitable Works or Charity Association)
In 1980, the directors of the Imam al-Khawai orphanage established the Mabarrah al-Imam al-Khawai (al-Khawai charity association) club for their wards known as al-Mabarrah for short. The club was active in schools and played friendly matches with other clubs from the Dahieh area. In 1986, after having won 42 of 45 matches, it was admitted to the Lebanese Football Association. The club fell all the way to the fourth division in the 1990s, but had made it back to the Premier League by 2003. The club won the State Cup in 2008.43
Al-Mabarrah is unique in that it is non-regional, representing all the charity associations in the country. By virtue of its success, it received the support of Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, one of Lebanon's best-known Shiite leaders and Hezbollah's spiritual guide. Although a stream of Shiite players joined the club's ranks, it continues to be based on the values of brotherhood, equality and sportsmanship, and it is rare to see its players or fans engage in religious zealotry against another club.44
The Tripoli Sports Club
The Olympic Beirut sports club was founded in 2000 and was renamed the Tripoli Sports Club in 2005 under the banner, "We are all Tripoli, we are all the North, we are all Lebanon." Despite its claim to represents the entire country, most of its players are Palestinians expelled from Jordan. The club attempted to put some distance between itself and the large Beirut clubs; it was always a weak side that was hard-pressed to match them athletically, logistically and economically. In 2009, after three difficult years, it was relegated to the second division. After a rebuilding process that included the establishment of two children's teams, a youth team, and an adult team, it returned to the Premier League as a rising force. Although it went down to defeat in the State Cup finals in 2014, it came back the next year to win it for the first time.45
FOOTBALL, DEFENDER OF AN IMAGE
Lebanese politicians "adopt" football clubs, including funding them with their own and their party's money, in pursuit of political capital. Purchasing a Sunni club is a way to buy Sunni votes. Maintaining sectoral and communal divisions serves the interests of politicians and prevents the development of national sentiments, converting a problem into an opportunity. Financing a team is an active behavior, but politicians also know when to remain passive. In the bracket stage of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, Lebanon played Saudi Arabia, losing the away game 1-4. The return match at home was scheduled for several days later in Beirut, but political and security problems forced Lebanon to move the game to another country. In order to maintain some form of home-field advantage, countries usually relocate a game to a nearby country. Lebanon could have elected to play the match in Syria, Jordan or Cyprus, but instead chose to play its "home game" against Saudi Arabia in Saudi Arabia.46
The rematch was held three weeks after the signing of the compromise agreement among the various Lebanese factions in Doha, Qatar, in 2008, and the election of a new president.47 The cordial atmosphere should have made it possible to play the game in Beirut, but the powers that be opted not to do so, even though it could have united the country behind football. There are a number of possible reasons for this decision: Saad al-Hariri is a Saudi citizen and Saudi largesse bought their silence; or, more simply, Lebanese politicians do not want to unite the various factions in the country. Instead of using football and the national team to effect a reconciliation, they support sectoral divisions in order to maintain their power.48
Like their counterparts all over the world, Lebanese politicians exploit football to further their country's foreign relations. The warm relations between Lebanon and Brazil are an excellent example. Emigrants from Lebanon, mainly Christians, began arriving in Brazil in the late nineteenth century; they founded a large community with outstanding institutions, such as the Syrian-Lebanese hospital in São Paulo. According to various estimates, there are currently between seven and ten million Brazilians of Lebanese descent. In 1920, Brazil opened a consulate in Beirut; in 1945, two years after Lebanon's declaration of independence, the two countries established diplomatic relations. Embassies were opened in 1954, and Lebanese president Camille Chamoun paid a state visit to Brazil that year. Forty-one years later, in 1995, Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri made another historic visit to Brazil, a step that opened the door for a series of reciprocal visits by senior officials.49
In 2006, after the war, "football diplomacy" made it to Lebanon. Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva sponsored a friendly match to promote peace. The inspiration for this may have been the historic friendly match played in Lebanon a week before the outbreak of the 1975 civil war, in which Pelé played in a Nejmeh uniform.50
Football has also served as a tool to improve relations between Syria and Lebanon, which have had their ups and downs over the years. In the last decade and a half, the two countries' national teams have played each other almost every year. When there were no official games, they held friendly matches. During the serious crisis between the two countries in 2005-09 following the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, they met for two matches.51 In January 2009, after a thaw and the renewal of diplomatic relations, the Lebanese national team hosted the Syrian national team for a match as part of the Asian Championship qualifiers, protected by a phalanx of armed soldiers but without spectators aside from a handful of journalists. Ironically, the game was played in Sidon in a stadium named for Rafik al-Hariri. The Syrian national team visited Lebanon as part of the series of diplomatic efforts to normalize relations, which included, for the first time in history, the dispatch of a Syrian ambassador to Beirut. Syria won the match 2-0, and there were no untoward incidents. However, the Syrians accused their Lebanese hosts of providing them with substandard conditions, after eight Syrian players were hospitalized with what the team physician referred to as "a very suspicious case of indigestion."52
Despite the lack of trust between the two countries, highlighted by the Syrian accusations, relations began to improve after this game. Six months later, in August 2009, they met for a friendly match in New Delhi. In March 2010, for the first time in many years, the Lebanese national team was in Damascus for an Asian Cup match. In August 2011, September 2013 and May 2015, the Syrian national team played friendly matches in Lebanon. The last game between the two was held in Sidon, in preparation for the 2018 World Cup, to be held in Russia, and the Asian Cup, slated for the UAE. The score was a 2-2 draw.53
Lebanon has also used football to improve internal relations. In 2010, Lebanese politicians engaged in a friendly match to mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war. "We are one team" was the slogan, and the message was that sports, unlike politics, can unify the nation. Diplomats and politicians, including President Michel Suleiman, sat in the stands. The red team, headed by Saad Hariri of the Future Movement, faced off against the white team, headed by Ali Ammar of Hezbollah. Rare interparty cooperation was evident on both sides. Ammar expressed hope that this sense of brotherhood would be reflected afterwards in Lebanese politics. Sami Gemayel of the right-wing Christian Phalange party and one of Hezbollah's harshest critics, scored two goals. After the game, he said that he had a positive feeling playing alongside Hezbollah politicians, and that there was a clear distinction between sport and politics. Information Minister Tarek Mitri added, "In Lebanon, polemics is the national sport, and now we are using real sport to overcome differences. It's important to show that not everything has to be politicized."54
As mentioned, until 2011, internal Lebanese politics affected the national team. The highest international ranking ever achieved by the Cedars was eighty-fifth, in 1998. By March 2011, they had plummeted to 178, the worst ranking ever, and in November of that year were ranked dead last in Asia. Fans demanded a change, which came in the form of Theo Bücker, a former player on Borussia Dortmund, and Schalke, previously the al-Ahed coach, who lives in Beirut and is married to a Lebanese woman. Recognizing that community divisions undermined the national team, Bücker said, "You are just selecting players based on performance and not because they are from Ahed or Ansar, Christian or Druze or Shia. … I don't care if someone is Christian or Muslim. There are only good and bad football players, that is all. I made them faceless, without any number. I am just looking for performance."55
Ali Hijazi, a sports commentator on al-Jadeed TV, commented on the significance of the changes Bücker brought to the national team. Until his arrival,
The football was miserable. Politics is a great reason why Lebanese football was bad. The politics is still here in Lebanese society, but Theo Bücker is working with the national team, with no politics or religious views. The Lebanese national team is doing the job that no politician can do.56
In 2012, before its match against Iran, the national team's captain, Roda Antar, promised that the team would win "for a unified Lebanon"; 27 minutes into the game, he scored the winning goal. The national team continued its successful 2012 run with a 3-1 victory against the United Arab Emirates and a 2-1 victory against South Korea.57 The national team's standing was better than ever, and it had become the most important unifying element in the country. Bücker responded to this phenomenon:
The Lebanese are tired of all the problems of the past. They are happy that this is uniting them. Now they have a very good reason to come back to the stadium. I believe it is very good for the nation. … There's a deep love for football in the country. But before they had no home to dedicate their love [to]. Now they have a home, now they can support their own team.58
But in the later stages of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, Lebanese football went to the dogs. An extensive match-fixing scandal broke, leading to the suspension of 24 players and devastation of the national team. The crowds at football games fell from 40,000 for the national team's game against Qatar to only 13,000 when it played Iran and only 8,000 in the match against South Korea. In the end, Lebanon failed to qualify for the World Cup. Without the scandal, or had the national team fixed one fewer match, it might have qualified for the World Cup for the first time in history.59
During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the streets of Lebanon were filled with the flags of the countries competing in the tournament. Even though Iran and Algeria were the only representatives of the Middle East, the flags of Brazil, Italy, Germany and Spain were the most common. Because Lebanon had been left on the sidelines, its citizens could choose any national team to support, in effect adopting an additional identity. Many young people used this to show that they felt part of the international community and saw the World Cup as an opportunity to put aside the difficult situation in Lebanon, if only for a moment.60
In an August 2014 interview with al-Akhbar, Hassan Nasrallah said that he had watched the 2014 World Cup final with his son, who was rooting for Germany. He himself rooted for Argentina, which he had supported ever since Maradona became its star. Nasrallah observed that watching the match was unusual for him; the conflicts in Syria and Lebanon did not permit him to watch football regularly. He also said that Hezbollah activists, like many others in Lebanon, supported the Brazilian national team because of its technique, and not, as a rumor had it, because the colors of the flag — yellow and green — are those of Shia Islam.61
The 2014 World Cup also sharpened class distinctions in Lebanon. The prohibitive price tag the cable provider attached to the games split the country into three groups: the less well-off, who congregated in houses with a television; the well-to-do, who watched the games in coffee houses; and those who, to protest the cable company's greed, watched the games for free on Israel's Channel 1, despite a Lebanese ban (enacted in 2000). Israel, for its part, saw broadcasting to its neighbors as a diplomatic maneuvre, in the words of Ofir Gendelman, the Israeli prime minister's spokesman to the Arab media. So many Lebanese were watching the games on Israeli television, the cable provider removed the charge for the games, to ensure that no one would watch the Israeli station.62
As a piquant sidebar, during the tournament, posters appeared in Lebanon in which some of the popular flags were redesigned to highlight and protest the country's inadequate infrastructure.63
A TOOL OF SOCIAL IMPROVEMENT
Football clubs in Lebanon are funded by private elements, most of them politicians, whereas the infrastructure is funded by government ministries and FIFA. In 2011, FIFA provided half a million dollars to the Lebanese Football Association. The allocation fell to half that in 2012-13, before returning to a half a million dollars in 2014 and climbing to a million dollars in 2015. These funds are meant for junior football, men's football, women's football, indoor football and beach football. The increased budget can be taken as a sign of FIFA's confidence in Lebanese football's upward trend. Since 2015, FIFA has supported infrastructure and funded medical treatment for players. Although the amounts are minimal ($12,038 and $27,500, respectively), this support is an indication that the LFA must address these issues. In 2011-14, women's football was funded to the tune of $37,500; in 2015, this tripled to $112,500. Similarly, indoor and beach football were allocated about $30,000 annually, increased to $100,000 in 2015. Finally, the grant for junior football, previously $50,000, was increased to $180,000 in 2015 at the expense of men's football.64
In addition to money, FIFA donated about 2,500 regulation footballs from 2003 to 2014 and sponsored courses for referees and coaches, football events for women and courses on management, administration, strategy and leadership. FIFA also invited bids for several projects in Lebanon. In July 2001, artificial turf was installed in the Safa club's stadium in Beirut, so the national team could practice there, at a cost of $473,300. In October 2011, half a million dollars worth of artificial turf was installed at another Beirut stadium, to provide a training field for junior teams. In March 2014, construction began on a new professional sports facility in the Bir Hassan neighbourhood of Beirut, at a similar cost.65
As in Syria, where international institutions such as UNICEF, UNRWA and the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP) are active, children's-rights organizations run a number of projects in Lebanon. One conspicuous venture is the "popular clubs" project sponsored by the Cross Cultures Project Association (CCPA) and the Rockwool Foundation. The CCPA first came to Lebanon in 2005 and set up five Open Fun Football Schools with the assistance of Rockwool, which develops amateur football infrastructure in socially divided countries as a tool to help bridge the fissures. Rockwool believes football allows for creating friendships that assist in building a society that promotes peace, tolerance and cooperation. It also believes that making football accessible to the masses can ensure that football does not become the exclusive property of the rich.66
The two organizations cooperated to set up a number of amateur football clubs whose goal is to promote coexistence, tolerance, gender equality and social cohesion — as opposed to the country's professional teams, which are interested only in talent, victories and money. After the program put down roots in several regions, an independent football association was founded to serve as the umbrella organization for these teams, with the assistance of the Lebanese Ministry of Youth and Sport. Young people from different communities and regions play together on the league's teams. The teams play one another, with the involvement of children, parents and coaches. The program also includes seminars, tournaments and the Open Fun schools. The seminars include discussions of the children's emotional and physical wellbeing and the continuation of the project. Once a month, there is a major happening for all participants — an activity, tournament or festival. Since 2008, hundreds of parents and more than 300 volunteers have attended the seminars for coaches, learning how to organize activities for children and set up teams to participate in the project. Within two years, the CCPA and Rockwool founded 80 teams, in which about 2,000 children play football every week. However, its greatest contribution has been furthering women's football, which has significantly enhanced women's rights.67
One of the most noteworthy and revolutionary projects in Lebanon has been the CCPA women's-football project. The organization, which sponsors educational activities in conflict-ridden countries, initiated the effort with the goal of changing Lebanese society by promoting gender equality and providing opportunities for young women. The method selected was a women's sports club, a response to the fact that clubs in the country are for men only. This is an especially brave step in a conservative country like Lebanon, where it is uncommon for women to play sports outside the schoolyard. The club was formed in November 2011 and became an academy for women's football, the first of its kind in the Arab world. The academy is divided into four age groups: under nine, nine to 13, 13 to 18, and 18 and up.68
There was already a women's football infrastructure in Lebanon. The national women's team, founded in 1997, was the first in the country. In 2006, the team was ranked 127th globally; after the 2006 war, it dropped to 144th. Then it rebounded, and within two years stood at 92nd, its highest ranking ever. It began falling again in 2009, and was ranked 126th in 2015. On the other hand, that year the women's under-17 (U17) team won the Arab junior cup. When the squad returned home, it was greeted by senior officials of the Lebanese Football Association.69
According to Hiba Jaafil, the coach of the women's U17 team and a former player for the national women's squad (and the only Lebanese woman holding a coaching certificate from the LFA), "Before that championship win, only 20 percent of Lebanese people were aware of women's football, but after our achievements the figure rocketed to around 80 percent." The victory was covered extensively in the Lebanese media and raised awareness of women's football significantly. To promote the women's game, the women's committee of the LFA announced the formation of a national women's U19 team. Although FIFA also supports women's football through budgets and local and international programs to develop women's leadership, Lebanese women's football still had no official sponsors at the end of 2015.70
In the summer of 2015, the women's academy held the first women's football festival in the country, in cooperation with Germany's Discover Football organization. Teams came from Egypt, Jordan, Libya, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon and Germany. The aim was to raise awareness of the women's game and show that football is for everyone, with an emphasis on women's physical and mental empowerment. The event's organizers believe football can provide a platform for sharing life stories, bridging cultural gaps, challenging gender stereotypes, discussing women's rights, supporting women, and providing a starting point for women to demand their rights. The project received many prizes and was praised by Wilfried Lemke, the special adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace.71
Alongside the activities of international organizations in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, top-flight European football clubs have also signed on to promote social change through football in Lebanon. In recent years, the United Nations and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have been actively promoting football for social purposes in Lebanon, and have recruited the support of another major team, the Italian Milan club. Since 2009, it has run a six-day summer camp in Italy for children from Beirut and Dubai. The camp works to hone football technique and skills, teach teamwork, and convey values such as concern for others and self-discipline. Its overarching purpose is to teach participants how to fulfill their potential in sports and life and return home with a positive worldview.72
This project is only one of numerous initiatives and cooperative ventures. One addesses the needs of Syrian refugee children, who account for around half of the 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Most do not attend school and are sometimes forced to work; three of every 10 leave home only once a week, evidence of the psychological trauma caused by their move to Lebanon. To deal with this, the sports-for-peace project enlisted AC Milan star Franco Baresi to found a sports center in Tripoli to help young refugees overcome the trauma of their migration and help them connect them with members of their age group, in part by playing football.73
The centre serves both boys and girls, including those with disabilities, and provides a safe place to play. Forty-five coaches were trained to help continue development of football in the country, as well as to protect young people and promote gender equality. At the opening ceremony, attended by approximately 1,400 Syrian and Lebanese children aged six to 17, Baresi said, "It was a really touching experience to see the children play, enjoy themselves and smile after so much pain. This is further evidence that sport is a really powerful tool to promote integration and peace."
Like AC Milan, Manchester City FC has been active in football projects for Lebanon's children and youth. After it opened a school in Abu Dhabi, and in light of AC Milan's successful project for Lebanese children, Manchester City opened a football school in Jounieh, north of Beirut, in April 2012. The school, which accepts both boys and girls, teaches sports skills alongside teamwork and discipline. The following July, it ran a summer program on the campus of the American University of Beirut, allocating some revenue to offer scholarships for students from the lower socioeconomic stratum or residents of Palestinian refugee camps.74
During the same month, about two years after launching Dignity for All project, which promotes the rights of Palestinians in Lebanon, UNRWA joined forces with the Manchester City school. Two coaches were flown in from Manchester for a special training day for boys and girls aged six to 16 living in the Shatila refugee camp, and for Lebanese boys and girls of the same ages. The event, under the slogan "play with dignity, live in dignity," provided a social opportunity for children from different communities, who do not normally have any contact. After the practice sessions, the school awarded certificates to the children in a ceremony attended by representatives of UNRWA, the British, Italian, and UAE embassies, and the Palestinian Authority mission in Lebanon. In September, the school held a four-day training camp attended by 200 Lebanese and Palestinian boys and girls, aged six to 17. The camp sought to give Palestinian children an opportunity to forget the difficulties that beset them — and the other 280,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon — and make new Lebanese friends, as well as to promote gender equality, encourage teamwork and self-confidence, and improve interpersonal communication skills.75
Whether assistance comes from private entities, international organizations or official bodies, it is clear that much use has been made of football in Syria and Lebanon to better the refugees' social condition. This is another example that football can be a tool for social and moral development, muffling the tumult of war and enabling children, parents and especially women to enjoy the game and even laugh again. This idea has passed the test: all the projects use the power of "the most beautiful game in the world" to turn the world into a more beautiful place.
1 "Religious about Football," Now (January 9, 2009), https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/reportsfeatures/religious_about_football (accessed August 9, 2015); "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya," Asharq al-Awsat, April 26, 2001, http://archive.aawsat.com/details.asp?article=36958&issueno=8185#.Va0aN… (accessed July 2015, 20); May Abdallah, "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya ... siyyasa wa-tawaaf," MBC, December 23, 2012, https://bit.ly/2It6mqX (accessed July 28, 2015).
3 "Religious about Football"; Mandel, "A Christian will play with a Shiite."
4 "Religious about Football"; James Montague, "Lebanese Season Ends amid Violence and Political Intrigue," The Guardian (April 30, 2009), http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2009/apr/30/lebanon-football-l… (accessed July 20, 2015).
5 Rabia Abu Shaqra, "al-Laabun fi Lubnan min jamia al-taawaaf wal-nadi wa-jamhureh min lon wa-aḥad," Asharq al-Awsat, February 21, 2002, http://archive.aawsat.com/details.asp?article=89513&issueno=8486#.VcJBQ… (accessed August 5, 2015); Libnani Lahiv, "Jamhur nadi al-Riyyaḍi Beirut yimsaḥ al-arḍ ba-nadi al-Irani," April 7, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRqr83ZINcc (accessed August 5, 2015).
6 Mandel, "A Christian Will Play with a Shiite."
7 Hamoudi Ahdaff, "A Fresh Page in Lebanese Football" (May 2, 2015), https://ahdaaf.me/2015/05/a-fresh-page-in-lebanese-football/ (accessed July 20, 2015); "Member Association – Lebanon," FIFA, http://www.fifa.com/associations/association=lib/ (accessed August 3, 2015); Cornick, "Lebanese Football."
8 Alon Zender, "Samim, sheḥitut, himmurim: ma nehiyah me-ha-sport?" Globes, August 7, 2013, http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1000869063 (accessed July 28, 2015); Cornick, "Lebanese Football."
9 "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya"; Gabriel Kuhn, Soccer vs. the State: Tackling Football and Radical Politics (2011), 54; Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, Soccernomics, World Cup Edition (2014), 174. http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1000869063 (accessed July 28, 2015); Cornick, "Lebanese Football."
10 The last Lebanese census was conducted in 1932; Eyal Zisser, Commanding Syria: Bashar al-Asad and the First Years in Power (2007), 176; "Middle East: Lebanon," The World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/le.html (accessed August 19, 2015); Montague, "Lebanese Season Ends"; Alon Raab, "Soccer in the Middle East: An Introduction," Soccer & Society 13, no. 5–6 (2012): 630, 633.
11 "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya"; "Kaes al-nakhbeh al-Lubnani," KOOORA, http://www.kooora.com/?g=364 (accessed August 16, 2015); Cornick, "Lebanese Football."
12 "Andiyya kara al-qadam" (April 25, 2015), Al-Ittiḥad al-lubnaniyya le-kara al-qadam, https://bit.ly/2ITRbX1 (accessed July 20, 2015).
13 Hisham Sharabi, Neopatriarchy: A Theory of Distorted Change in Arab Society (1988); James Dorsey, "Syrian Soccer Star Symbolizes Game"s Importance in Protests," Syrian Studies Association Bulletin 17 no. 1 (2012).
14 Raab, "Soccer in the Middle East," 624; Dag Tuastad, "From Football Riot to Revolution. The Political Role of Football in the Arab world," Soccer & Society 5, no. 3 (2014): 376, 385.
15 Ibid, 384.
16 Mandel, "A Christian Will Play with a Shiite"; "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya"; "Religious about Football"; "Nejmeh Sporting Club" (Nadi al-Nejmeh al-riyaḍi), Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/NejmehUltras/info?tab=page_info (accessed August 5, 2015).
17 Mandel, "A Christian will play with a Shiite"; Abu Riyaḍ, "Qalwa fi al-Nejmeh," KOOORA, August 21, 2007, http://forum.kooora.com/f.aspx?t=5608838 (accessed August 14, 2015); Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Expectation of the Millennium: Shiism in History (1989), 425.
18 Abdallah, "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya"; Abu Shaqra, "Al-laʿabun fi Lubnan"; Dina Jarkas, "Clasico al-amamin fi al-malaʿab al-lubnaniyya," Now, June 11, 2012, https://bit.ly/2Iw88rn (accessed August 6, 2015); May Abdalah, "Fi Lubnan … lakol taafeh nadi," MBC, December 24, 2012, https://bit.ly/2ItHDPa (accessed July 8, 2015); Shanim al-Darwish, "Al-Taafiyyeh al-Riyyaḍiyyeh," KOOORA, October 7, 2009, http://forum.kooora.com/?t=19709058 (accessed August 6, 2015).
19 Abu Shaqra, "Al-Laabun fi Lubnan"; Asam Sahmarani, "Taṭhir siyyasi fi nadi al-Nejmeh," Elaph, September 28, 2006, http://elaph.com/elaphweb/ElaphWeb/ElaphGuys/2006/9/179929.htm (accessed August 6, 2015); "Jamhur nadi al-Nejmeh al-Riyyaḍi yahataf lal-Shia," Muka janub lubnan (June 24, 2013), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOuztXgcco8 (accessed August 6, 2015).
20 "Nejmeh Sporting Club" (Nadi al-Nejmeh al-Riyyaḍi), February 14, 2012, https://www.facebook.com/NejmehUltras/posts/313042505410851 (accessed August 6, 2015).
21 "Farik: al-Ahed," KOOORA, http://www.kooora.com/?team=1277 (accessed July 20, 2015); "Taarikh Nadi al-Ahed," al-Ahed, http://www.alahedfc.com/#!historyawards/c66t (accessed July 28, 2015); "Al-Ahed," Abdo Gedeon, http://www.abdogedeon.com/volleyball/NOUJOUM/al%20aahd.html (accessed August 10, 2015); statistics from Soccerway, http://int.soccerway.com/teams/lebanon/al-ahed-beirut/3574/trophies/ (accessed August 7, 2015).
22 "Al-Ahed yaqadem kas batuleh labnun ala samaheh al-sid Hassan Nasrallah," Al-Ahed News, May 19, 2015, http://sports.alahednews.com.lb/article.php?id=4665&cid=35#.Va02ULWW5BE (accessed July 20, 2015); James Montague, "In Lebanon, Even Soccer is Tainted by Sectarian Strife," New York Times, October 24, 2007, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/24/sports/24iht-CUP.1.8030583.html (accessed August 6, 2015); Karim Makdisi, "On Soccer and Politics in Lebanon," Counterpunch, July 5, 2008, http://www.counterpunch.org/2008/07/05/on-soccer-and-politics-in-lebano… (accessed July 20, 2015).
23 Nir Efrati, "Every game is a funeral: The rift in Lebanon—also in football" [Hebrew], Maariv, June 22, 2009, http://www.nrg.co.il/online/3/ART1/905/779.html (accessed July 20, 2015); Montague, "Lebanese Season Ends"; Montague, "In Lebanon."
24 Montague, "Lebanese Season Ends"; statistics from Soccerway, http://int.soccerway.com/national/lebanon/premier-league/2008-2009/regu… (accessed August 6, 2015).
25 Montague, "Lebanese Season Ends."
28 Montague, "Lebanese Season Ends"; Efrati, "Every game is a funeral."
29 Abd al-Qadr Sa"ad, "Al-Tawter bin al-Nejmeh wal-Ahed: Ma hi asbabah wa"al-salah man?" Al-Akhbar 2401, August 23, 2014, http://www.al-akhbar.com/node/216170 (accessed August 5, 2015); "Rabteh jamhur nadi al-Nejmeh—al-Baqaa," Facebook, April 17, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=1724751007749180&story_fbid=1… (accessed August 6, 2015); statistics from Soccerway, http://int.soccerway.com/national/lebanon/premier-league/20142015/regul… (accessed August 20, 2015).
30 "Nejmeh Sporting Club" (Nadi al-Nejmeh al-Riaḍi); Jarkas, "Clasico al-amamin fi al-malaʿab al-Lubaniyyeh"; Abu Shaqra, "Al-La"abun fi Lubnan"; "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya," Asharq al-Awsat; "Farik: al-Ansar", KOOORA, http://www.kooora.com/?team=1269 (accessed July 20, 2015); "Al-Ansar", Abdo Gedeon, http://www.abdogedeon.com/volleyball/NOUJOUM/al%20ansar.html (accessed August 10, 2015); Montague, "Lebanese Season Ends"; Makdisi, "On Soccer and Politics in Lebanon"; Mikhail Korolev, "Season Review: Latvia," UEFA, November 8, 2010, http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=lva/news/newsid=1562… (accessed August 10, 2015); Karel Stokkermans and RSSSF, "Lebanon – List of Cup Winners," RSSSF, May 21, 2015, http://www.rsssf.com/tablesl/lebcuphist.html (accessed August 14, 2015).
31 Al-Darwish, "Al-Taafieh al-Riyyaḍieh."
32 Abu Shaqra, "Al-La"abun fi Lubnan"; "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya," Asharq al-Awsat; Abdallah, "Fi Lubnan"; "Racing Club Beirut," Abdo Gedeon, http://www.abdogedeon.com/volleyball/NOUJOUM/racing club beirut.html (accessed August 10, 2015); Montague, "National Team"; "Lebanon-Racing Beirut — Results, Fixtures, Squad, Statistics, Photos, Videos and News," Soccerway, http://int.soccerway.com/teams/lebanon/racing-beirut/6018/ (accessed August 12, 2015); "Racing Club Lebanon," Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Racingclublebanon (accessed August 12, 2015).
33 The club excels mainly in basketball. Since it started playing, in 1992, it has won eight championships, three cups, two Arab Champions League titles, and three Asian championships.
34 Jarkas, "Clasico al-amamin fi al-malaʿab al-Lubnaniyya"; Abu Shaqra, "Al-La"abun fi Lubnan"; "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya"; "Balsureh: Madha kal tarek karan ʿan "Mashru al-Halem" le-Nadi al-Hekmeh?" Sports-Leb, August 10, 2015, http://www.sports-leb.com/2015/08/10/henry-chalhoub-sagesse-club-sports… (accessed August 13, 2015); Montague, "Lebanese Season Ends"; Makdisi, "On Soccer and Politics in Lebanon"; "Religious about Football"; "Sagesse Club," Sagesse Club, http://www.clubsagesse.org/history (accessed August 13, 2015); "Sagesse Club—Nadi al-Hekmeh," Facebook, August 10, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/Clubsagesseofficial/photos/a.611376142268660.1… (accessed August 13, 2015).
35 "Al-Safa," Abdo Gedeon, http://www.abdogedeon.com/volleyball/NOUJOUM/al%20safaa.html (accessed August 10 2015); Abdullah, "Fi Lubnan"; "B"al-tafasil ... hadhah Kasah bahij Abu Hamzeh wa-alikem al-rawaiʾyya al-Janblatiyya!" Music Nation, April 8, 2014, https://bit.ly/2Lae074 (accessed August 14, 2015).
36 "Nadi al-Taḍamoun Sour al-Riyyaḍi," Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/TadamonSourSportingClub/info?tab=page_info (accessed August 10, 2015).
37 "Farik: Al-Taḍamoun Sour," KOOORA, http://www.kooora.com/?team=1270 (accessed July 20, 2015); "Lejneh al-sadkaʾa Nadi al-Taḍamoun sour akamat saharah wa-sahor ramaḍani daʿam lal-Nadi," Sour Sawa, July 9, 2015, http://soursawa.com/news/?p=26030 (accessed August 10, 2015).
38 "Farik: Al-Taḍamoun Sour"; "Al-Taḍamoun Sour," Abdo Gedeon, http://www.abdogedeon.com/volleyball/NOUJOUM/al tadamon sour.html (accessed August 12, 2015).
39 "Farik: Al-Taḍamoun Sour; "Al-Taḍamoun Sour"; Abu Shaqra, "Al-La"abun fi Lubnan"; Mandel, "A Christian Will Play with a Shiite."
40 "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya"; Abu Shaqra, "Al-Laabun fi Lubnan"; "Shabab al-Sahel," Abdo Gedeon, http://www.abdogedeon.com/volleyball/NOUJOUM/chabab al sahel.html (accessed August 10, 2015); "Al-Nadi," Shabab al-Sahel, http://www.shababalsahel.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&… (accessed August 10, 2015); Montague, "In Lebanon."
41 "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya"; Abu Shaqra, "Al-Laabun fi Lubnan"; "Shabab al-Sahel"; "Al-Nadi"; Montague, "In Lebanon."
42 "Religious about Football"; Cornick, "Lebanese Football"; Abu Shaqra, "Al-La"abun fi Lubnan"; "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya."
43 "Kara al-qadam al-lubnaniyya shiiyya wa-sunniyya wa-druziyya wa-massihiyya"; "Nadi al-Mabreh," Abdo Gedeon, http://www.abdogedeon.com/volleyball/NOUJOUM/al mabarrah.html (accessed August 12, 2015); "Farik: Al-Mabarrah", KOOORA, http://www.kooora.com/?team=1278 (accessed August 12, 2015).
44 "Nadi al-Mabarrah"; Al-Darwish, "Al-Taafieh al-Riyyaḍiyya"; Martin Kramer, "The Oracle of Hizbullah: Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah," Spokesmen for the Despised: Fundamentalist Leaders in the Middle East, ed. Scott Appleby (University of Chicago Press, 1997), 83-181.
45 Mandel, "A Christian Will Play with a Shiite" ; "A.C. Tripoli" (Nadi Trablas al-Riaḍi), Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AcTripoliNadyTrablsAlryady/info?tab=page_info (accessed August 12, 2015); "Lebanon-Tripoli SC – Results, Fixtures, Squad, Statistics, Photos, Videos and News," Soccerway, http://int.soccerway.com/teams/lebanon/olympic-beirut-trables-sport-clu… (accessed August 12, 2015).
46 Makdisi, "On Soccer and Politics in Lebanon."
47 According to the agreement, Michel Suleiman was elected president. See Amir Kulik, "Derekh ḥadashah li-Levanon o reishito shel ha-sahar ha-shii? Eiruei Mai ba-Levanon ve-heskem Doha," Mabat Al 58, June 1, 2008.
48 Makdisi, "On Soccer and Politics in Lebanon."
49 "Lebanese Republic," Brazil Foreign Affairs Office, January 15, 2015, www.itamaraty.gov.br/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7223 (accessed August 19, 2015).
50 Gido, "Brazil"; Abu Riyyaḍ, "Mabara"ah fi al-Dhakreh ... Biliyye maʿ al-Nejmeh," KOOORA, September 3, 2009, http://forum.kooora.com/?t=5801520 (accessed August 17, 2015); Najib, "Brazilian Football Legend Pelé Played for Lebanese Nejmeh SC in 1975," Blog Baladi, May 7, 2014, http://blogbaladi.com/brazilian-football-legend-pele-played-for-lebanes… (accessed August 16, 2015).
51 Statistics from Soccerway, http://us.soccerway.com/teams/syria/syria/2202/matches/ (accessed February 2, 2016); "Lebanon National Football Team: Record v Syria," 11v11, http://www.11v11.com/teams/lebanon/tab/opposingTeams/opposition/Syria/ (accessed February 2, 2016).
52 Roee Nahmias, "History: Diplomatic Relations between Syria and Lebanon" [Hebrew], Ynet, August 13, 2008, http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3582174,00.html (accessed March 15, 2016); Dorsey, "Lebanese-Syrian Soccer"; Natalia Antelava, "Syria-Lebanon Politics on the Pitch," BBC, January 28, 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7857229.stm (accessed February 1, 2016).
53 "Syrian National Football Team Ties with Lebanese Counterpart 2-2 in a Friendly Match," Al-Masdar News, May 24, 2015, http://www.almasdarnews.com/article/syrian-national-football-team-ties-…–2-in-a-friendly-match/ (accessed June 5, 2015); statistics from Soccerway, http://us.soccerway.com/teams/syria/syria/2202/matches/ (accessed February 2, 2016); "Lebanon National Football Team: Record v Syria."
54 "Lebanon Commemorates Civil War Outbreak through Soccer," Jerusalem Post, April 14, 2010, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Lebanon-commemorates-civil-war-outbrea… (accessed July 20, 2015); Natalia Antelava, "Lebanon's Political Rivals Meet in Football 'Friendly'", BBC, April 13, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8618829.stm (accessed August 12, 2015).
55 Montague, "National Team"; Hamoudi Fayad, "The State of Lebanese Football after the Infamous Match Fixing Scandal," Outside of the Boot, October 13, 2014, http://outsideoftheboot.com/2014/10/13/the-state-of-lebanese-football-a… (accessed July 20, 2015).
56 Montague, "National Team," http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/sports/soccer/in-lebanon-national-soc….
57 Montague, "National Team"; Ori Cooper, "A Bomb of a Game—Iran and Lebanon Meet" [Hebrew], Ynet, September 10, 2012, http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4279156,00.html (accessed July 20, 2015).
58 Montague, "National Team," http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/29/sports/soccer/in-lebanon-national-soc….
59 Hamoudi, "A Fresh Page in Lebanese Football"; Fayad, "The State of Lebanese Football."
60 Agence France Presse, "In Lebanon, World Cup Fever a Break from Politics," Arab News, June 12, 2014, http://www.arabnews.com/news/585566 (accessed August 12, 2015); Bassel Habbab, "World Cup Raises Foreign Flags, Lebanese Questions," Al-Akhbar, June 6, 2014, http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/20072 (accessed August 12, 2015).
61 "Waled al-Sid Hassan Nasrallah kan yarid an yinsha abneh mehandasa o maḥamiyya," al-Bawaba, July 19, 2010, https://bit.ly/2LfpxSu (accessed July 20, 2015) ; "Hassan Nasrallah shaja mantakhab al-arjantin fi nahaai kas al-alam," France24, August 14, 2014, https://bit.ly/2rY2lk3 (accessed July 20, 2015).
62 "Worth the License Fee? Lebanon Watches the World Cup in Hebrew" [Hebrew], Ynet, June 19, 2014, http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4532066,00.html (accessed August 12, 2015); Habbab, "World"; Associated Press, "Tensions over Conflicts in Syria, Iraq Push Arab Soccer Fans to Watch World Cup on Israeli TV," Fox News, July 8, 2014, http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2014/07/08/tensions-over-conflicts-in-syr… (accessed March 14, 2016).
63 Hashem Osseiran, "Lebanon-Inspired World Cup Flags Cheer for Change," Daily Star, July 8, 2014, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Jul-08/263150-lebano… (accessed August 12, 2015).
64 "Lebanon – FIFA Financial Assistance Programme", FIFA, http://www.fifa.com/development/facts-and-figures/association=lib/finan… (accessed August 3, 2015).
65 "Lebanon – Goal Programme," FIFA, http://www.fifa.com/development/facts-and-figures/association=lib/index… (accessed August 3, 2015); "Lebanon – Adidas Goal Balls", FIFA, http://www.fifa.com/development/facts-and-figures/association=lib/adida… (accessed August 3, 2015); "Lebanon – Technical Activities," FIFA, http://www.fifa.com/development/facts-and-figures/association=lib/techn… (accessed August 3, 2015).
66 "More about Football for Peace and Community-Building," Beyond Sport, http://www.beyondsport.org/project/f/football-for-peace-and-community-b… (accessed February 9, 2016); Jens Juul Petersen, "Football Under Cover," CCPA, http://ccpa.eu/what-we-do/stories-from-the-field/football-under-cover/ (accessed February 9, 2016); Jens Juul Petersen, "Lebanese Women Fight Revolution Through Football," Common Ground News Service, October 4, 2011, http://www.commongroundnews.org/article.php?id=30474&lan=en&sp=0 (accessed February 9, 2016).
67 "Lebanon," CCPA; Petersen, "Football under Cover"; Petersen, "Lebanese Women Fight Revolution Through Football"; "More about Football for Peace and Community-Building."
68 Nir Yahav, "A league of their own: women"s football academy founded in Lebanon" [Hebrew], Walla! February 15, 2012, http://news.walla.co.il/item/2509118 (accessed August 3, 2015); Petersen, "Lebanese Women Fight Revolution Through Football."
69 "Member Association – Lebanon"; "U-17 Starlets Boosting Lebanese Women's Game," FIFA, September 23, 2015, http://www.fifa.com/womens-football/news/y=2015/m=9/news=u-17-starlets-… (accessed February 9, 2016).
71 "Discover Football: Football Festival Lebanon 2015," Discover Football, http://www.discoverfootball.de/en/projects/football-festival-lebanon-20… (accessed August 3, 2015); "Discover Football Goes Lebanon," Claim The Pitch, July 10, 2015, http://claimthepitch.org/2015/07/10/discover-football-goes-lebanon/ (accessed February 9, 2016).
73 "Najam al-kara al-Italiyya al-sabaq Franko Barisi yiftataḥ markaza riaḍiyya lal-mafoḍiyya fi Lubnan", UNHCR, December 19, 2014, http://www.unhcr-arabic.org/5496e59d6.html#_ga=1.35911264.1199712383.14… (accessed July 20, 2015); "UNHCR and Milan Foundation Together," Fondazione Milan, December 10, 2014, http://www.fondazionemilan.org/en/news/show/155264 (accessed July 28, 2015).
74 "International School of Football Launches in Lebanon," Manchester City FC, April 27, 2012, http://www.mcfc.co.uk/news/club-news/archive/2012/april/lebanon-school-… (accessed February 9, 2016); "Manchester City School of Football – Lebanon," Beirut City Guide http://www.beirut.com/l/25121 (accessed February 9, 2016); "Manchester City School of Football," American University of Beirut, July 9, 2012, https://www.aub.edu.lb/sao/sports/chsc/Pages/ManchesterCitySchoolofFoot… (accessed February 9, 2016).
75 Agence France Presse, "Manchester City Academy Offer a Sporting Chance and Change," The National, September 11, 2012, http://www.thenational.ae/sport/football/manchester-city-academy-offer-… (accessed February 9, 2016); "Manchester City School of Football Brings Young Refugees and Lebanese Youth Together," UNRWA, July 25, 2015, http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/manchester-city-school-foo… (accessed February 9, 2016).