Any team can find the Grand Final week emotionally draining. The excitement of qualifying is followed by the worry over injuries and the anticipation of the big game.
The civil unrest in Lebanon last Thursday caused a new level of stress, prompting the authorities of the Lebanese Rugby League to postpone the Grand Final, just hours before it was scheduled to start in Beirut.
The Lebanese Rugby League Federation had fought against great difficulties to put together a competition. For Wolves RLFC (Wolves RLFC) and Lycan Grey Wolves RLFC (Lycan Grey Wolves RLFC), it was a disaster but one that couldn’t be avoided.
The game will now take place a week earlier than originally planned, despite all odds.
In recent months, Lebanon has been engulfed in political turmoil. Last week saw clashes that saw six civilians killed and the army being sent to the streets.
The worst civil unrest was reported to have occurred in many years. Many reports refer back to the Lebanese Civil War which lasted between 1975-1990, and the more recent conflict with Israel of 2008.
This latest wave of violence follows a period that saw the devastating Beirut port explosion, which shocked the world in August last year, ongoing economic crises, and the pandemic.
Before Covid struck, the country was already in a very poor economic position. There was hyperinflation, sovereign debt issues, and a strong protest movement.
The pandemic caused further economic damage, and the explosion at the port that killed more than 200 people set off a political crisis.
Nayef Abi Said, CEO, Lebanese Rugby League Federation said that the combination of economic problems and lockdowns had made it difficult to even get the season started or reach a conclusion with Grand Final.
He said, “It was really difficult since we had to delay resuming activities in accordance government restrictions.”
“And as soon we announced that we would resume our activities, the crisis grew and we began to face more electricity blackouts and gas shortages, medication shortages, and currency devaluation which really affected our daily life.”
“As a consequence, the cost of field service and staff for us as a Federation increased as well as for the clubs.” Due to the exodus of many young Lebanese from Lebanon, we also had a shortage in players.
The players know that they can overcome adversity at this stage. They are using their already stretched budgets to pay for the play.
Abi Said stated that “the conditions for players weren’t favorable at all.” “First, many clubs had to resume training after nearly 18 months of no activity due to Covid. Second, the number of weekly sessions had to be decreased to lower the cost of the economic crisis.
“Secondly, players had the to sacrifice valuable time and financial resources in order to train for and play games. We had to delay a few matches because we ran rapid tests on players just before they entered the stadium and found positive cases.
The game has survived despite its most difficult year thanks to the enthusiasm of the Lebanon Rugby League team and the promise of the Rugby League World Cup in 2022.
The national team, the Cedars, is made up mainly of professional players who are based in the Lebanese Australian community in Sydney. However, the game is very strong at the grassroots level in Lebanon and has existed since 2003.
Abi Saif stated, “The Lebanese Rugby League Federation strongly believes that the game has a bright future in Lebanon. Due to the players’ passion and commitment, we were able to overcome all obstacles and reach the Grand Final.”
“The World Cup, that’s what we live for. The Grand Final celebrates a season of success that saw the best clubs compete and is a sign of healthy competition.
“We hope that after finishing the final, we will cross an important milestone, especially considering all the factors negatively impacting us.”
“This Grand Final will increase the morale of players and keep them excited about the game. It will also motivate them to train harder and compete against each other in order to have a greater number of qualified players who can represent our country at the Rugby League World Cup next October.
“I refuse to be anything less optimistic and positive about Rugby League’s growth in Lebanon.”