History of Lebanese football (2/2)

Several players have marked Lebanese football in recent decades. The best are for example Fadi Allouche or Moussa Hojeij, and, more recently, Hassan Maatouk. But the two players who will stand out are undoubtedly Roda Antar and Youssef Mohammed, who have played for a long time in the Bundesliga.

Wadih Abdelnour, media coordinator at the Lebanese Football Federation, explained that “in 2001, a new federation was elected, headed by Hachem Haidar and, as general secretary, Bahij Abou Hamze”. Another milestone in the modern history of Lebanese football was the appearance of Ahed in the mid-2000s. A club that would continue to grow to become the best Lebanese club in the last five years. Abdelnour pointed out that “in 2019, Ahed achieved the greatest success at the Asian level of Lebanese football clubs, with the success of the Asian Confederation Cup. There is stability in the finances and management of this club. It is a club close to Hezbollah .”

Another Lebanese club distinguished itself by training a large group of Lebanese players without ever winning the title of Lebanese champion: Tadamon Tyr.

Roda Antar is arguably the best attacking player in the history of Lebanese football

The outstanding Lebanese players of the last 3 or 4 decades

As for the Lebanese players who can be said to be the best in the post-war era, Abdelnour points out that “you have to differentiate the players who played in Lebanon from those who became professionals outside of Lebanon. The two who are the most talented abroad are Roda Antar and Youssef Mohamad. The latter is the captain of the Cologne team. Many local players have also distinguished themselves such as Wael Nazha and Ali Fakih. A prominent player in recent years is Hassan Maatouk. “

Abi Chahine added that “in Ansar, the best players of the golden era of the 90s were Allouche, Meselmani and Chehab. In Ahed, in recent times, players like Ahmad Zreik and Mohamad Haidar have particularly distinguished themselves himself. He must not forget Moussa Hojeij, who was Nejmeh’s outstanding player in the 2000s.”

Asked by Ici Beyrouth on Pierre Issa’s level compared to the best Lebanese players of this era, Abi Chahine emphasizes that “Issa is a South African international and not Lebanese. He has a very good level. Youssef Mohamad played almost seven years in the Bundesliga and performed well. Pierre Issa played with Marseille and Watford. Issa has more fame, but Mohamad has a better level. In addition, Issa is has the advantage of having grown up and been trained in France.”

A national team that does not shine

Parallel to the Lebanese clubs, we can note that the national team did not shine and never qualified for the Football World Cup. Although better results were recorded during the qualifiers for the 2014 and 2022 World Cups, several structural pitfalls seem to be hindering the development of the national team. Abi Chahine explained that “a major problem in Lebanese football is signing the life of players to clubs. Players are not masters of their destinies. Because of this, many players cannot leave their clubs. and positive respond to great sporting challenges abroad. Things have gradually changed, and there are now fixed-term contracts between clubs and players. In addition, the dominance for many years of Ansar in Lebanese league is unhealthy for the competitiveness of Lebanese football. The popularity and The marketing power of Lebanese football has decreased due to Ansar’s monopoly. This has had negative consequences at the national team level. Another factor is the scarcity of Lebanese players who have turned professional in their careers abroad This partly explains the lack of results of the Lebanese national team. Not to mention the problem of lawns. in Lebanon, which is of poor quality. Many artificial turf pitches lead to a greater risk of injury to players. No land available for selection. The selection therefore plays its matches in different places. One of the problems in Lebanon is that the land is owned by the municipalities. This is why clubs cannot manage the quality of their pitches by themselves. Moreover, municipalities in Lebanon are plagued by corruption.”

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