On the 1st of June 2012, I took a seven-hour flight to Beirut, like many other Lebanese living abroad who are, as well, die-hard fans of the national team – the Cedars, in order to watch our opening game in the last round of qualifications to the world cup Brazil 2014 against Qatar on the 3rd of June 2012. A Long journey travelled for the sake of the qualifications journey which has gone far for the first time in the Lebanese football history.
In general, we were lucky to watch our Ex professional footballers the captain and leader Rida Antar and Youssef Mohamad (Dodo) playing together at the Camille Chamoun sports city stadium for the national team during such qualifications and after. Their presence meant a lot for football fans all over the country and has boosted the courage and enthusiasm among their fellow colleagues in the national team.
Back to that game against the Qataris, I would recall two incidents; first, the fans have never been lazy when the matter was a national team cheering call, and this particular game was never an exception as it was almost full-house game and a masterpiece coloured red at the stands of the fans. The second incident was remarkably disappointing. The incident was that cursed backward pass which gave the Qataris the undeserved suspicious goal and win (according to Theo Bucker, the Lebanese manager at the time). A goal which has drived a further investigative committee to conclude one of the biggest scandals in the history of the Lebanese Football… I am recalling those two incidents at this time in particular, weeks before the Asian cup of nations starts, in order to send messages and questions that concern every single lover for the national team.
In fact, Lebanon had participated once in Asian Cup of Nations in the year 2000, when it was organized in Lebanon, and the outcome was disappointing. Therefore, Lebanon was unable to qualify through the process to that level until recently for this coming version in UAE, an achievement wouldn’t have happened had the AFC not increased the number of participants to 24 national team instead of 16. The question to be asked at such occasion is simply how are we going to this competition and what’s our main goal?… I am not sure that Lebanese fans will digest a first round knockout at any cost with all respect to every doer and hard worker in the team. Historically, media praise the performance of the team on the next day after knockout and refer the failure to a hard luck…This time it’s different, UAE shall be a home game for Lebanon due to the presence of numbers of Lebanese in the country. Thus, another failure won’t have any justification for any official, manager, or player or any person who is in a way or another in charge of this national mission or football in general in Lebanon… Football fans, fans of the most popular game in Lebanon, deserve to see their National team grabbing the respect and climbing the ladder to the top in Asia like our Basketball National team has done at many occasions.
On one hand, the managerial responsibles must be aware that failure to plan is a plan for failure and judgment day is coming after the competition by either a praise or a curse. On the other hand, players must be informed and acknowledged by the coach and the sports director, if there’s any in place, that nationwide frustration of previous scandal had led to severe psychological frustration and disappointment which can never be recovered unless they impress and make a noisy achievement in order to recover the image, the trust, and cheerful national scale support… Financially speaking, they shall be educated and acknowledged that their present value will drop if they disappoint again and their future value will rise exponentially if they impress and score an unprecedented achievement, acknowledgement like an alarm of the severe consequences of any match-fixing trial attempt…So who is doing this informative job? How are we preparing our team.
As the Asian cup of nations is approaching, and although It’s an occasion which we will miss the likes of the legend Rida Antar or leaders like Moussa Hojeij, but we definitely look at our neighbours in Syria (for their remarkable achievement on their way to the last WC 2018) and remember that through good will, sacrifice, and hard-work the impossible has never been Lebanese.