Football in Lebanon
Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium 2018 - Beirut derby (Nejmeh fans).png
CountryLebanon
Governing bodyLebanon Football Association (LFA)
National team(s)Lebanon
First played1933
Clubsc. 190
National competitions
Club competitions
International competitions

Football is the most popular sport in Lebanon.[1][2][3] It was introduced to Lebanon in the late-19th century, becoming particularly popular among teachers and students Christian schools. The Lebanese Football Association (LFA) was formed in 1933 as one of the earliest administrative bodies for association football in the Middle East. The Lebanon national team made its unofficial debut in 1935 against Romanian club CA Timișoara (T.A.C.), while their first official FIFA game was in 1940 against Mandatory Palestine.

Armenian clubs, namely Homenetmen and Homenmen, led the early football scene between the 1940s and the 1960s; the civil war between 1975 and 1990 made it impossible to practice football in Lebanon. Ansar became the dominating force in the country between the 1990s and the early-2000s, winning 11 consecutive league titles. In the 21st century, Ansar, Nejmeh, and Ahed (the latter in particular starting from the 2010s) formed a Lebanese "Big Three", winning the majority of the titles. Indeed, historically, the country's most-supported clubs are Ansar and Nejmeh,[4] with Ahed gaining popularity in recent years.[5]

While the Lebanon national team haven't won a major title internationally, Ahed became the first Lebanese club to win the AFC Cup in 2019.

History

Birth of football (late 1800s–1940)

DPHB at Beirut Municipal Stadium's inaugural match in 1935
DPHB at Beirut Municipal Stadium's inaugural match in 1935

Football in Lebanon was introduced by the educated class in Lebanon.[6] First played by foreign teachers at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in the late-1800s, football quickly grew in popularity with the immigration of Armenians to Lebanon during the French Mandate.[6] Football was seen as an elite activity, and was mainly played in Christian schools.[6]

In 1931 Khalil Hilmi, a member of Riyadi, attempted to form a Federation.[7] However, the proposal failed as Nahda opposed the formation.[7] On 22 March 1933, representatives of thirteen football clubs gathered in the Minet El Hosn district in Beirut to form the Lebanese Football Association (LFA).[8] Hussein Sejaan was the LFA's first president.[9] Lebanon was one of the first nations in the Middle East to establish an administrative body for association football.[a][10] The Lebanese Premier League began on May 1934, with Nahda winning the first title.[11] The LFA joined FIFA in 1936.[12]

The first activity of the Lebanese national team began in 1935. Beirut XI, representing Lebanon, played against CA Timișoara (T.A.C.) of Romania:[13][14] the game was considered the national team's first.[15] The national team's first official FIFA game was a 5–1 loss to Mandatory Palestine on 27 April 1940,[16] with Camille Cordahi scoring Lebanon's first official international goal.[17]

Early history (1940–1975)

Lineup of the Lebanon national team at the 1966 Arab Cup
Lineup of the Lebanon national team at the 1966 Arab Cup

Most clubs were born on the basis of sectarianism, such as Sagesse being Maronite Christian, Nahda a Greek Orthodox team, and Ansar having a predominantly Sunni Muslim fanbase.[6] A rivalry was established between Ansar and another Beirut club, Nejmeh: dubbed the Beirut derby, the match has been considered the biggest club football match in Lebanon.[18]

Between the 1940s and 1960s,[6] Armenian clubs, most notably Homenetmen and Homenmen, were the most prominent in the early Lebanese footballing scene.[19] The two clubs shared 11 league titles in 16 seasons between 1943 and 1969.[11] In 1964 the LFA joined the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).[12]

Between the 1960s and 1975 Lebanese football was at its peak, with Nejmeh even beating USSR champions Ararat Yerevan in 1974.[20] In 1975, one week before the Lebanese Civil War, Brazilian player Pelé played a friendly game for Nejmeh against a team of Lebanese Premier League stars.[21] On the day of the game, 40,000 spectators were at the stadium from early morning to watch the match.[21] From 1975 to 1990, the civil war made it impossible to practice football.[22]

Post-Civil War (1990–present)

Lebanon during the 2019 Asian Cup game against Saudi Arabia
Lebanon during the 2019 Asian Cup game against Saudi Arabia

Following the civil war, players from lower-income families began to join football clubs, specifically from impoverished Sunni and Shia areas.[18] Ansar set a Guinness World Record by winning 11 consecutive national titles between 1988 and 1999.[23]

Lebanon hosted the 2000 AFC Asian Cup, with the national team finishing last in the group with only two points.[24] In 2001, the LFA joined the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) as one of its founding members.[25] From 2000, Nejmeh were the dominating force in Lebanon, winning five out of nine league titles until 2009. In 2005 they reached the final of the AFC Cup, becoming the first Lebanese side to do so.[26] However they lost to Al-Faisaly 4–2 on aggregate.[27] During the 2010s Ahed, who had only won one league title prior, won six league titles. In the 2010–11 season Ahed won the league, cup, Super Cup and Elite Cup, becoming the first team in Lebanon to accomplish both a treble and a quadruple.[28]

After winning the 2018–19 Lebanese Premier League Ahed became the three-time defending champions, a feat accomplished only one other time, by Ansar in 1992.[29] In 2018 the national team qualified for their first ever major tournament: the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. They won their first game in the tournament on 17 January 2019, against North Korea 4–1 in the group stage; however, they narrowly missed out on the knock-out stage on the fair play rule.[30] On 4 November 2019, Ahed became the first Lebanese side to win the AFC Cup after defeating April 25 in the 2019 final.[31] The 2019–20 season was cancelled due to financial reasons amid the then-impending coronavirus pandemic.[32][33]

League system

Main article: Lebanese football league system

Level Divisions
1 Lebanese Premier League
(One national division, 12 clubs)
2 Lebanese Second Division
(One national division, 12 clubs)
3 Lebanese Third Division
(4 groups, 7 clubs per group)
4 Lebanese Fourth Division Beirut
(1 group, 7 clubs)
Lebanese Fourth Division North
(3 groups, 8–9 clubs per group)
Lebanese Fourth Division South
(3 groups, 8–9 clubs per group)
Lebanese Fourth Division Mount Lebanon
(4 groups, 9 clubs per group)
Lebanese Fourth Division Bekaa
(2 groups, 8–9 clubs per group)
5 Lebanese Fifth Division Beirut
(1 group, 6 clubs)
Lebanese Fifth Division North
(1 group, 5 clubs)
Lebanese Fifth Division South
(2 groups, 6 clubs per group)

Cup competitions

National teams

Lebanon hosted the 2000 AFC Asian Cup and were eliminated from the group stage.[2] They participated in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, winning their first game in the competition against North Korea in the group stage. However, they narrowly missed out on the knock-out stages by the fair-play rule.[35]

At youth level, the U20 team took part in the AFC U-20 Asian Cup twice, reaching the quarter-finals in the 1973 edition. The U18 team made history as the first Lebanon men's national team to play in a final, finishing as runners-up in the 2021 WAFF U-18 Championship.[36]

Women's football

Main article: Women's football in Lebanon

Women's football in Lebanon, while not very popular due to the social stigma attached to it,[37][38] has seen a rise in popularity in the late-2010s.[39] It is mainly played in the affluent areas of the country.[40] The Lebanese Women's Football League was founded in 2008, with Sadaka winning the first title.[41]

The women's national team came third the WAFF Women's Championship twice: in 2007 and in 2019.[42][43] In 2015, the women's under-17 team became the first Lebanese national football team to win a title, after being crowned 2015 Arab U-17 Women's Cup champions.[44] In 2019, Lebanon won both the WAFF U-15 Girls Championship and the WAFF U-18 Girls Championship.[44][45]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The FA's of Iran, Egypt, Turkey, and Israel are older.

References

  1. ^ "Lebanon commemorates civil war outbreak through soccer | JPost | Israel News". JPost. 14 April 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b "National Team Helps Bring Lebanon Together". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  3. ^ "Theo Bucker, Lebanon hope to qualify for Brazil 2014 World Cup - Soccer - SI.com". Sportsillustrated.cnn.com. 25 September 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  4. ^ "Great Asian Derbies – Al Ansar SC vs Nejmeh SC (Beirut)". GhanaSoccernet. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  5. ^ "The Hezbollah Club". BabaGol. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Alami, Mona (1 September 2009). "Religious about football". NOW Lebanon. Archived from the original on 19 April 2011. Retrieved 15 October 2010.
  7. ^ a b Sakr 1992, p. 35.
  8. ^ "الإعلام الرياضي في لبنان بين شباك السياسة والإهمال" [Sports media in Lebanon between politics and neglect]. الأخبار (in Arabic). Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  9. ^ Sakr 1992, p. 17.
  10. ^ Henshaw 1979, p. 420.
  11. ^ a b "Lebanon - List of Champions". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  12. ^ a b عساف, فراس ابو. "لمحة عن الإتحاد" [Lebanese Football Federation]. الاتحاد اللبناني لكرة القدم (in Arabic). Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  13. ^ "All-Beirut vs TAC" (PDF). Al-Kulliyah Review. Vol. 3, no. 4. American University of Beirut. 30 November 1935. p. 317.
  14. ^ النهضة تهزم التاك والتاك يهزم منتخب بيروت [Nahda defeats TAC and TAC defeats the Beirut select team]. An-Nahar. 23 November 1935.
  15. ^ صقر, علي حميدي (1992). موسوعة كرة القدم اللبنانية [Lebanese Football Encyclopedia] (in Arabic). مؤسسة نوفل للتوزيع. ISBN 0000281247.
  16. ^ "World Football Elo Ratings: Lebanon". www.eloratings.net. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  17. ^ "British Mandate of Palestine Official Games 1934-1948". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  18. ^ a b "Great Asian Derbies – Al Ansar SC vs Nejmeh SC (Beirut)". The AFC. 2 October 2017. Archived from the original on 24 May 2018. Retrieved 9 March 2021.
  19. ^ Mouawad, Jamil (2018). "Lebanese Football: Imagining a Defiant and United Lebanon". Middle East Critique. 27 (3): 289–302. doi:10.1080/19436149.2018.1485301. S2CID 150228818. Retrieved 14 March 2019 – via www.academia.edu.
  20. ^ "Origines et naissance du football au Liban - iloubnan.info". iloubnan.info. 10 August 2007. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Football and Politics in the Shadow of the Cedars, 2000-2015 | Middle East Policy Council". www.mepc.org. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  22. ^ SAMMOURI, Ralph (19 June 2018). "Sport et politique au Liban à travers l'histoire trouble du Nejmeh - Ralph SAMMOURI". L'Orient-Le Jour (in French). Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  23. ^ terrythetourist (29 June 2013). "Lebanese Football: From Beirut to Buecker". Terry The Tourist. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  24. ^ Stokkermans, Karel. "Asian Nations Cup 2000". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  25. ^ "Jordanian Prince Ali re-elected as president of WAFF". Kuwait News Agency (KUNA). Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  26. ^ Lebanon, Football. "العهد الى نهائي كأس الإتحاد الآسيوي لأول مرة في تاريخه". football-lebanon.com. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  27. ^ "Asian Club Competitions 2005". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  28. ^ "Lebanon - Al Ahed - Results, fixtures, squad, statistics, photos, videos and news - Soccerway". us.soccerway.com. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  29. ^ الميادين, شبكة (7 April 2019). "نادي العهد... قصة طموح ومثابرة نحو المجد". شبكة الميادين (in Arabic). Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  30. ^ "Group E: Lebanon 4-1 DPR Korea". www.the-afc.com. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  31. ^ "Al Ahed clinch historic title". www.the-afc.com. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  32. ^ "القرار المرّ: نشاط الفوتبول معلّق حتى إشعار آخر". الأخبار (in Arabic). Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  33. ^ "رسميا.. إلغاء الموسم الكروي في لبنان". كووورة. 28 May 2020. Retrieved 28 May 2020.
  34. ^ "Lebanon - List of Cup Winners". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  35. ^ "Group E: Lebanon 4-1 DPR Korea". www.the-afc.com. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  36. ^ "بالصور.. ركلات الترجيح تحفظ لقب غرب آسيا لشباب العراق". كووورة. 1 December 2021. Retrieved 1 December 2021.
  37. ^ "Lebanese women futsal players kick down barriers". The Times of India. 13 December 2013. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  38. ^ "Lebanon's women breaking new ground". FIFA. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  39. ^ Afiouni, Nadim (4 March 2020). "Women's National Team head coach Wael Gharzeddine: the best is yet to come". FA Lebanon. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  40. ^ "Lebanon optimistic towards women's football future". AFC. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  41. ^ "Lebanon - List of Women Champions". www.rsssf.com. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  42. ^ "West Asia Womens Championship". www.goalzz.com. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  43. ^ "Perfect Jordan retain West Asian title". www.the-afc.com. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  44. ^ a b Abou Diab, Rami (16 December 2019). "Lebanon wins the 2019 U-15 West Asian Football Championship". FA Lebanon. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  45. ^ "THE WAFF- Lebanon crowned the "WAFF U18" title". www.the-waff.com. Retrieved 13 January 2020.

Bibliography