Lebanon’s soccer wars

Just when you think Lebanon couldn’t get any stranger, the country manages to outdo itself. In commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the beginning of the country’s 15-year civil war, Lebanon’s leaders divided up into two teams based on their political allegiances and played a 30-minute soccer match. Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s (right) team ...

570068_100413_hariri2.jpg
570068_100413_hariri2.jpg

Just when you think Lebanon couldn't get any stranger, the country manages to outdo itself. In commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the beginning of the country's 15-year civil war, Lebanon's leaders divided up into two teams based on their political allegiances and played a 30-minute soccer match. Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri's (right) team bested Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar's squad, on the strength of two late goals by anti-Hezbollah firebrand MP Sami Gemayel who, at 29, was evidently able to use his youth to run circles around his much older rivals.

Like Lebanese politics, the match seemed to have involved a flurry of confused and potentially dangerous activity, followed by a long, inconclusive respite. "Some of the commentators had to stop themselves from laughing at the sight of their pot-bellied leaders running after the ball and, very quickly, running out of breath in the curtailed match," wrote the BBC.

Of course, politics is never far from the surface at Lebanon's sporting events -- spectators are not even allowed at soccer matches not involving Lebanon's most powerful potentates, for fear that it will lead to sectarian skirmishes. Gemayel, asked for comment after the match, said that his success "proved that MP Ali Ammar's defense strategy is very weak" -- a shot aimed not only at the deputy's soccer skills, but at Hezbollah's reliance on its arms to protect Lebanon from Israel.

Just when you think Lebanon couldn’t get any stranger, the country manages to outdo itself. In commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the beginning of the country’s 15-year civil war, Lebanon’s leaders divided up into two teams based on their political allegiances and played a 30-minute soccer match. Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s (right) team bested Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar’s squad, on the strength of two late goals by anti-Hezbollah firebrand MP Sami Gemayel who, at 29, was evidently able to use his youth to run circles around his much older rivals.

Like Lebanese politics, the match seemed to have involved a flurry of confused and potentially dangerous activity, followed by a long, inconclusive respite. “Some of the commentators had to stop themselves from laughing at the sight of their pot-bellied leaders running after the ball and, very quickly, running out of breath in the curtailed match,” wrote the BBC.

Of course, politics is never far from the surface at Lebanon’s sporting events — spectators are not even allowed at soccer matches not involving Lebanon’s most powerful potentates, for fear that it will lead to sectarian skirmishes. Gemayel, asked for comment after the match, said that his success “proved that MP Ali Ammar’s defense strategy is very weak” — a shot aimed not only at the deputy’s soccer skills, but at Hezbollah’s reliance on its arms to protect Lebanon from Israel.

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