Hamoudi Fayad gives a bit of an insight into the state of the Lebanese national team, and how they’ve recovered since their match-fixing scandal.
Only a few months ago, Ilija Trojanovic posted an article here on Outside of the Boot writing about the Lebanese match fixing scandal, which resulted in the lifetime banning of Ramez Dayoub and Mohammad El Ali from football and the 1-3 year banning of 22 other Lebanese players.
Only a few of these players – Ziad Al Samad, Roda Antar and Yousef Mohammad – were not involved, looking dumbfounded as soon as they learnt about their teammates wrong doing… and take note: these 3 players have either had multiple jobs to keep them up financially with their footballing career OR they have played in and earned good money in the top tier of German football, the Bundesliga.
Lebanese footballers – for years now – have been chosen domestically for most of the time. The 3 players above were one of the very few played in the international squad how ply their club trade abroad.
Now there is a new dawn of players in the national team coming from the Middle East, Europe, Asia and even North America. The rise of these continental club players is remarkable for such a small country like Lebanon, with players such as: Soony Saad (Sporting KC), Roda Antar (Jiangsu Sainty), Abbas Hassan (Elfsborg), Feiz Shamsin (Pandurii), Hassan Maatouk (Al-Fujairah (UAE)), and Mohammad Ghaddar (Al-Faisaly) all playing abroad. There has also been a rise in dual nationality Lebanese youngsters who are set to make their national team debuts: Abdel Ghany “Boudy” Ramadan (Manchester City, previously at Anderlecht), Amin Younes (currently at Borussia Monchengladbach) and Phillipe Paoli (FC Koln).
An Introduction to the Lebanese National Team
Nicknamed “The Cedars”, the Lebanese National Team has little to boast about. Their best moments have come in the following order: their highest FIFA World Ranking ever, done so in 1998 (85th in the World), hosting the 2000 Asian Cup (failing to get out of the group stage in the process), reaching the final round of the World Cup 2014 Qualifiers for Asia (with match fixing being the sole reason for their failure to qualify) and losing out on a 2015 Asian Cup spot by a difference of one goal. ONE GOAL!
Showing signs of promise and coming close to some memorable momemtns prompted the Lebanese FA and Government to start to produce a golden generation, and reform their country’s footballing stature. They want to replicate the style of Belgium and how they’ve produced their youngsters (a bit too far off in thinking I must say as a Lebanese citizen) and have done so with some of the few players I mentioned above.
Management & coaching staff
Mario Zagallo (ex manager of the Brazil national team, various Brazilian clubs and a couple of Middle East countries) is an advisor for the Lebanese National Team, along with Faryd Mondragon (retired Colombia keeper) and Miguel Layun (who played for Mexico at the 2014 World Cup) being of Lebanese descent. This is just the start of a new beginning for the national team.
Roma Legend Giuseppe Giannini, a manager from Roberto Mancini’s agency, is the current manager of Lebanon. Alberto Di Chiara (former Lecce, Fiorentina and Roma player) is his Assistant and Giovanni Cervone (also a player who served Roma for many years) is his goalkeeping coach.
Since the elimination of Lebanon from the 2015 Asian Cup Qualifiers, there has been a lack of friendlies with different countries across the world. Their first game since their win over Thailand in the Asian Cup Qualifiers was a game against Brazil U-23, a side that featured the likes of: Marquinhos, Doria, Ademilson, Vitinho and Douglas Coutinho. Lebanon drew 2-2, (the Brazilians’ late equalizer was offside) but the point is showing the progress of Lebanon. Yes, it is the U23s of Brazil but some of the players in the South American giants’ U-23 side are twice the quality of Lebanon’s first team.
Their second friendly, as recent as October the 9th was against Qatar. A 5-0 thrashing at the Lekhwiya Stadium in the capital of Qatar showed how far the Lebanese team still has to go. They kept their level with Qatar in the first half before conceding just before the end of the half. Defensive mistakes in the 2nd half proved the winner as Lebanon conceded 2 in the space of 45 seconds at one stage of the game.
A friendly against Saudi Arabia on the 15th is approaching, and one will only know how long it takes for Lebanon to finally reach a competition by qualifying rather than hosting it.
There is lots of time to prepare before the qualification tournaments start for the 2018 World Cup, WAFF Championship (for non-Gulf Middle Eastern Teams such as Iran, Jordan, Syria, etc.) and the 2019 Asian Cup.
These will be benchmarks against which the improvement of Lebanon can truly be tested, and although there may still be a long way to go, they are headed in the right direction. At a time where Middle Eastern countries like Jordan & Oman impressed more than the traditional powerhouses, Lebanon should be looking to further take advantage in the international scene.
Written by Hamoudi Fayad
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