The week of the Grand Final is an emotionally draining time for any team. There’s the exhilaration of qualifying, followed by the inevitable injury worries and heartbreaking anticipation of the big game ahead.
In Lebanon, a whole new level of stress was added as civil unrest escalated last Thursday, forcing Lebanese rugby league authorities to postpone their grand final just hours before the scheduled kick-off in Beirut.
For the Lebanese Rugby Union, which had struggled with incredible difficulties to organize a competition at all, and for the two teams, Wolves RLFC and Lycan Gray Wolves RLFC, it was a disaster, but it could not be. avoided.
Now, against all odds, the match will take place a week later than originally planned.
Lebanon has been in the throes of political upheaval in recent months, which peaked last week in clashes that saw six people killed in clashes and the army sent to the streets.
It has been described as the worst civil unrest in years, with numerous reports referring to the dark days of the Lebanese civil war, which lasted from 1975 to 1990 and the more recent 2008 conflict with Israel.
The latest wave of violence comes after a period that included the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut that shocked the world last August, an ongoing economic crisis and, of course, the pandemic.
The country was already in a bad economic situation before Covid struck, with issues of hyperinflation and sovereign debt, with a strong protest movement that had already formed before the lockdowns of 2020.
Further economic damage was caused by the pandemic, and the port explosion that killed more than 200 people sparked a political crisis from which Lebanon has not yet emerged.
Nayef Albert Abi Said, CEO of the Lebanese Rugby League Federation, said it was the combination of blockages and economic problems that caused so many problems even for the start of the season, not to mention the conclusion of the Grand Final.
“It was really difficult because we had to postpone the resumption of our activities in accordance with government restrictions,” he said.
“And as soon as we announced the resumption of our activities, the crisis worsened and we started to face more blackouts, gas shortages, drug shortages and currency devaluation. which has really affected our daily life. “
“As a result, the cost of field services and staff has increased for us as a Federation and for the clubs as well. We were also faced with a shortage of players due to the exodus of many young Lebanese abroad.
For players, overcoming adversity is nothing new at this point – they are paying from their own already strained budgets to pay.
“The conditions for the players were not at all favorable,” said Abi Said. “First of all, most clubs had to resume training after almost 18 months of no activities due to Covid as well as decreasing the number of weekly training sessions to cut costs due to economic crisis.”
“Second, the players had to sacrifice precious time and financial resources to train and get to games. Then we had to postpone a few matches when we did quick tests for the players on match day, just before entering the stadium, and found some positive cases among the players.
The well of enthusiasm for the rugby league in Lebanon, plus the carrot of a Rugby Union World Cup in 2022, is what kept the game going through its most difficult year.
The Cedars, the national team, are largely made up of professional players based in the Lebanese-Australian community of Sydney, but the game is strong locally in Lebanon, and national competition has been around since 2003.
“The Lebanese Rugby Union Federation firmly believes in the game and its bright future in Lebanon and thanks to the commitment and passion of the players, we were able together to overcome all barriers and successfully qualify for the Grand Final” , said Abi Saif.
“The World Cup is what we live for. The Grand Final is the crowning of a successful season which has showcased the best clubs and reflects healthy competition.
“We hope that after finishing the final we will take an important step forward, especially taking into account all the factors that affect us negatively.”
“This grand finale will boost the morale of the players and keep them interested and excited for the game, so that they can be properly prepared and motivated to train harder and compete with each other so that we can have a more large number of qualified players able to represent our beloved country at the Rugby Union World Cup next year in October.
“I refuse to be anything but optimistic and positive about the growth of the Rugby League in Lebanon.”