With yesterday’s loss to Tadamon Sour, Salam Zgharta is demoted to the second division next season. The last time Salam played in this division was in 2013, when they won it.
Salam Zgharta spent 8 consecutive seasons in the topflight, the longest of its history. In this period, the northern team won its maiden and only major trophy, the 2014 FA Cup, and came in the top 6 twice, in 2016/17 (2nd) and 2017/18 (6th). In fact, in 1974, when the club moved to Zgharta (the club was founded in 1971), it was demoted by the end of the season. Since then, 31 seasons were played, 9 of them in the second division. Such record is normal for a club coming from a region like Zgharta, where just 70 000 people approximately live. The selection pool of football talents is very small (only 3 players from Zgharta ever played with the senior National Team).
Out of all the previous demotion, something is different. This time, Salam Zgharta has a leading academy under its hands. This institution has been graduating several players per year to the senior teams. From 2013 until 2020, 14 academy players debuted for Salam Zgharta (7 other academy players debuted this season with 3 games to go!).
Something is under construction at Al Merdeshiyeh. Whether you look at the number of U-22 players in the team or the quality of those players, it is obvious there is something special being built there. The challenge will be to keep those players. The threat will not be coming from other clubs, but from the temptation to quit the game.
In a transition period, a club must sacrifice to build for the future. For example, Ahed spent 2 seasons in the midtable before they dominated the Lebanese scene. The sacrifice of a club that always fights relegation, like Salam Zgharta, will be losing that battle.
Being demoted is not a false step in the history of the club if the project remains. This could be an opportunity for the northern club to rebuild itself, harvesting what it planted in its academy, to comeback stronger to the premier league and perhaps out-do what it did in the last 8 seasons.