Lebanese football is in a precarious state as of now. The political undertakings in the country currently are a sign of bad things to continue, especially without the help of the Lebanese FA or people who work towards the development of the league. As the 2014-15 Alfa Lebanese League continues through to complete the 22 rounds in what has been one of the most hotly contested title races in years, we are still seeing problems with fans, players, authority members and officials that surround the controversy of Lebanese football.
The transfer rules in Lebanon are pretty straightforward and similar, with the transfer windows being roughly around the same range of dates to European and Middle Eastern transfer windows.
In Lebanon, a team is only allowed 3 foreign players to play and train with the team. Essentially, if a foreign player’s contract is terminated due to a long-term injury or because of poor form that needs to be taken advantage of by termination, then the Lebanese teams are stuck in a perplexing situation.
With only one month during the winter break for transfers after the first round of games are completed, the Lebanese club Presidents are constantly on their phones; calling and texting players and their agents to complete contract signings as soon as possible in order for managers to have optimum time for the new players to work in and gel with their new teammates.
Add to that the semi-professional scene of Lebanese football, scouting systems and lack of financial support denotes the fact that coaches and their bosses have little to no time to watch players, let alone have a trial. All of these factors combine together to create a massive difficulty for these players.
Another baffling rule is the fact that players who have played for one Lebanese team in a specific season are not allowed to sign for another team. Rarely do you ever see direct transfers in Lebanese football unless it is during the off-season. It is not a significant rule that can stop teams from winning the league, but players who move to bigger clubs in Lebanon and are not permitted to play for more than half a season due to being “league-tied” will waste 6 months of their career.
Semi-Professionalism, Shisha, Late Nights, Missing Training, Match Fixing
One of the biggest problems that surround Lebanese football is the disorganisation that never looks to improve. With the arrivals of foreign coaches such as Theo Bucker, Peter Meindertesma, Josef Petrik, Zoran Pesic and Bahtiyar Can Vanli – we can see some improvement in the actions of the Lebanese players… but not enough.
Recently banned (3 years) Mohammad Jaafar who played for Al-Nejmeh before getting caught for match fixing has finally been allowed to return to training before he can officially play in any games. That, of course, is not the case as he has skipped a couple of training sessions, an action that led to the top blowing resignation of Nejmeh’s assistant manager Hussein Hamdan on Live TV. Only in Lebanese football.
These late arrivals and skipping of training sessions are caused due to the main catalyst that Arabs (and foreigners) across the world are fond of; Shisha. Shisha is a type of smoking that is detrimentally better than cigarettes, and is enhaled through a big pipe. You would think that football players would eat carbohydrates and do blood glucose tests before matches and training, but in Lebanon they smoke! This leads to the coaches (especially the foreign ones who are harsh and organised) banning, fining and shouting at players, which causes disharmony between the squad.
Besides professional Lebanese players like Roda Antar, Yousef “Dodo” Mohammad and Ziad Al-Samad – this type of care for their future is not taken into consideration at all. Ali Hamam and Walid Ismail have left Lebanon over these 2 years to professionalise in Iran, while Haitham Faour is waiting on offers from Iran too after the 2014-15 Alfa Lebanese League season ends. Khodor and Hamzeh Salameh have gained their professional status elsewhere, along with Mohammad Ghaddar, Mohammad Haidar and Hasan Chaito.
The players who care; leave. The players who don’t care about their future and the future of Lebanon; stay in the league and continue with its unsatisfactory playing style and lack of financial support.
A sign of hope
Mohammad Rabih Taha, only 17, is a goalkeeper signed for APOEL after a trial with them and he is one of the only players in Europe that is Lebanese. AbdelGhany “Boudy” Ramadan is another 17-year-old, but he plays in England at Great Ashton United although is currently loaned out to Manchester City’s youth squad. Soony Saad (formerly at Sporting KC, now at BEC Tero Sasana), Phillipe Paoli (formerly Lyon youth, now Koln II) and Kassem Hayek (Lyon Youth) are all the bright sparks for the Lebanese National team and it’s future.
Jad El Zein has returned from Marygrove College football in Lebanon to the South of Lebanon where he plays at Tadamoun Sour, and hopefully this is a sign of Lebanese players from the outside returning back to their home. Ali Al Saadi has just returned to Al-Safa after a professional ride with Naft Al-Maysan in Iraq.
With the continuous influx of foreign managers and players (along with a balanced mix of domestic coaches), this will lead to a more challenging style of play that will lead Lebanon’s local players and coaches to push back and claim the top spot in Lebanon. None of the top 5 scorers in the Alfa Lebanese League are professional, which shows a distant gulf in class between the foreigners and local lads.
As of right now, the information on the Lebanese League is limited, the financial support is limited, the care from the FA is limited, and the behaviour of the fans is limited to throwing bottles and swearing. Will we see clubs like Al-Nejmeh and Al-Ansar competing in the AFC Champions League in the future after a rejection for licensing into the continent’s most prominent continental competition? I highly doubt it, but there is hope for Lebanon. Minimal, very minimal hope.