Football in Lebanon

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Football in Lebanon
Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium 2018 - Beirut derby (Nejmeh fans).png
Governing bodyLFA
National team(s)Lebanon
First played1933
National competitions
Club competitions
International competitions
FIFA World Cup (National Team)
Asian Cup (National Team)
WAFF Championship (National Team)

Football is the most popular sport in Lebanon.[1][2][3][4] It is governed by the Lebanese Football Association (LFA).[5] The country's most supported clubs are Ansar and Nejmeh,[6] with Ahed gaining popularity in recent years.[7]


Birth of Lebanese football[edit]

Sika Club Beirut at Beirut Municipal Stadium's inaugural match in 1935.

Football made its debut in Lebanon in 1908, then a province of the Ottoman Empire. It was quickly adopted by the young Lebanese, and was particularly popular with students from the American University of Beirut (AUB). After the First World War, Greater Lebanon became a French protectorate under the mandate of the League of Nations. Football became very popular with French soldiers in the local Christian community.[8]

The first Lebanese clubs were founded in the 1920s, but the first season of the Lebanese football championship took place in 1933. On 22 March 1933, representatives of thirteen associations gathered in the city of Mina Al Hosn to form the Lebanon Football Association,[9] with Lebanese journalist Nassif Majdalani helping in its formation.[10] It joined FIFA in 1935 and the AFC in 1964.[11][12] The Lebanese Premier League began the same year as the formation of the Federation, with Nahda winning the first title.[13] The first activity of the Lebanese national team began the following year, in 1934. Beirut XI, representing Lebanon, played two games against T.A.C. of Romania:[14][15] these unofficial matches are regarded as the national team's first.[16] The national team's first official FIFA game was a 5–1 loss to Mandatory Palestine on 27 April 1940,[17] with Kamil scoring Lebanon's first official international goal.[18]

Early history[edit]

Lineup of the Lebanon national team at the 1966 Arab Nations Cup.

Most clubs were born on the basis of sectarianism, such as Sagesse being a Christian club and Ansar having a Sunni fanbase.[19][20] A rivalry was established between Ansar and another Beirut club, Nejmeh. Dubbed the Beirut derby, the match has been considered the biggest club football match in Lebanon. Between the 1940s and 1960s, Armenian clubs, such as Homenetmen and Homenmen, were the most prominent in the early Lebanese footballing scene.[19] The two clubs shared 11 titles in 16 seasons between 1943 and 1969.[13] During the 1970s Lebanese football was at its peak, with Nejmeh even beating Ararat Yerevan, the USSR champions, in 1974.[8] In 1975, one week before the Lebanese Civil War, Brazilian player Pelé played a friendly game for Nejmeh against a team of Lebanese Premier League stars,[21] scoring two goals which were not included in his official tally.[22][23] On the day of the game, 40,000 spectators were at the stadium from early morning to watch the match.[21] From 1975 to 1990, the civil war made it impossible to practice football.[24] From 1988 to 1999 Ansar set a Guinness World Record by winning 11 consecutive national titles.

New millennium[edit]

Lebanon during the 2019 Asian Cup game against Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon hosted the 2000 AFC Asian Cup, with the national team finishing last in the group with only two points.[25] From 2000, Nejmeh were the dominating force in Lebanon, winning five out of nine league titles until 2009. In 2005 they reached the final of the AFC Cup, becoming the first Lebanese side to do so.[26] However they lost to Al-Faisaly 4–2 on aggregate.[27] During the 2010s Ahed, who had only won one league title prior, won six league titles. In the 2010–11 season Ahed won the league, cup, Super Cup and Elite Cup, becoming the first team in Lebanon to accomplish both a treble and a quadruple.[28] After winning the 2018–19 Lebanese Premier League Ahed became the three-time defending champions, a feat accomplished only one other time, by Ansar in 1992.[29] In 2018 the national team qualified for their first ever major tournament: the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. They won their first game in the tournament on 17 January 2019, against North Korea 4–0 in the group stage; however, they narrowly missed out on the knock-out stage on the fair play rule.[30] On 4 November 2019, Ahed became the first Lebanese side to win the AFC Cup after defeating April 25 in the 2019 final.[31] On 21 January 2020, the LFA decided to suspend all football leagues until further notice, and cancelled the three match days that were previously played (the last one being on 17 October 2019).[32]

League system[edit]

Level Divisions
1 Lebanese Premier League
(One national division, 12 clubs)
2 Lebanese Second Division
(One national division, 12 clubs)
3 Lebanese Third Division
(3 groups, 8 clubs per group)
4 Lebanese Fourth Division Beirut
(1 group, 7 clubs)
Lebanese Fourth Division North
(3 groups, 8–9 clubs per group)
Lebanese Fourth Division South
(3 groups, 8–9 clubs per group)
Lebanese Fourth Division Mount Lebanon
(4 groups, 9 clubs per group)
Lebanese Fourth Division Bekaa
(2 groups, 8–9 clubs per group)
5 Lebanese Fifth Division Beirut
(1 group, 6 clubs)
Lebanese Fifth Division North
(1 group, 5 clubs)
Lebanese Fifth Division South
(2 groups, 6 clubs per group)

Cup competitions[edit]

  • The Lebanese FA Cup, first held in 1938, with Nahda winning the first title,[33] is the national domestic cup competition. Teams from the Lebanese Premier League, Lebanese Second Division and Lebanese Third Division are eligible to compete in the competition.
  • The Lebanese Super Cup, first held in 1996, is a single match played between the winners of the Lebanese Premier League and the Lebanese FA Cup.
  • The Lebanese Elite Cup, first held in 1996, is an annual cup competition contested by the top six teams of the previous Lebanese Premier League season.
  • The Lebanese Challenge Cup, first held in 2013, is an annual cup competition contested by the teams placed between 7th and 10th in the previous Lebanese Premier League season, and by the two promoted teams from the Lebanese Second Division.
  • The Lebanese Federation Cup (1999–2004) was the domestic League Cup, contested by all Lebanese Premier League teams. The competition was held only three times: in 1999, 2000 and 2004.

National team[edit]

The Lebanon national football team is coached by Liviu Ciobotariu,[34] and captained by Hassan Maatouk.[35] Lebanon hosted the 2000 AFC Asian Cup and were eliminated from the group stage.[3] They participated in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, winning their first game in the competition on 17 January 2019 against North Korea. However, they narrowly missed out on the knock-out stages by the fair-play rule.[36]

Women's football[edit]

Women's football in Lebanon isn't very popular; it is mainly played in the affluent areas of the country.[37] There is a great stigma attached to females playing football.[38][39] The Lebanese Women's Football League was founded in 2008, with Sadaka winning the first title.[40] The women's national team came third the WAFF Women's Championship twice: in 2007 and in 2019.[41][42] In 2015, the women's under-17 team became the first Lebanese national to win a title, after being crowned 2015 Arab U-17 Women's Cup champions.[43] In 2019, Lebanon won both the WAFF U-15 Girls Championship and the WAFF U-18 Girls Championship.[43][44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lebanon commemorates civil war outbreak through soccer | JPost | Israel News". JPost. 14 April 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  2. ^ "On Soccer and Politics in Lebanon » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names". CounterPunch. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  3. ^ a b "National Team Helps Bring Lebanon Together". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  4. ^ "Theo Bucker, Lebanon hope to qualify for Brazil 2014 World Cup - Soccer -". 25 September 2012. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  5. ^ "الاتحاد اللبناني لكرة القدم" [Lebanese Football Federation]. (in Arabic). Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  6. ^ "Great Asian Derbies – Al Ansar SC vs Nejmeh SC (Beirut)". GhanaSoccernet. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  7. ^ "The Hezbollah Club". BabaGol. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Origines et naissance du football au Liban -". Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  9. ^ "الإعلام الرياضي في لبنان بين شباك السياسة والإهمال" [Sports media in Lebanon between politics and neglect]. الأخبار (in Arabic). Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  10. ^ Mubarak, Hassanin; Morrison, Neil. "Lebanon - International Results - Early History". Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  11. ^ عساف, فراس ابو. "لمحة عن الإتحاد" [Lebanese Football Federation]. الاتحاد اللبناني لكرة القدم (in Arabic). Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  12. ^ "تاريخ تاسيس الاتحاد اللبناني لكرة القدم؟" [The date of the establishment of the Lebanese Football Federation?]. Elsport News (in Arabic). Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Lebanon - List of Champions". Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  14. ^ "Roumanian team to visit Beirut" (PDF). Al-Kulliyah Review. I (5). American University of Beirut. 17 February 1934. p. 24.
  15. ^ Mubarak, Hassanin; Morrison, Neil. "Lebanon - International Results - Early History". Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  16. ^ صقر, علي حميدي (1995). موسوعة كرة القدم اللبنانية [Lebanese Football Encyclopedia] (in Arabic). مؤسسة نوفل للتوزيع. ISBN 0000281247.
  17. ^ "World Football Elo Ratings: Lebanon". Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  18. ^ "British Mandate of Palestine Official Games 1934-1948". Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  19. ^ a b Mouawad, Jamil. "Lebanese Football: Imagining a Defiant and United Lebanon". Retrieved 14 March 2019 – via Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ "The Birth, Death and Re-Birth of Lebanese Football - Ahdaaf". Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Football and Politics in the Shadow of the Cedars, 2000-2015 | Middle East Policy Council". Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  22. ^ "Brazilian Football Legend Pelé played for Lebanese Nejmeh SC in 1975". Blog Baladi. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  23. ^ "Lebanon's national teams fly above entrenched sectarianism among supporters". The National. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  24. ^ SAMMOURI, Ralph (19 June 2018). "Sport et politique au Liban à travers l'histoire trouble du Nejmeh - Ralph SAMMOURI". L'Orient-Le Jour (in French). Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  25. ^ Stokkermans, Karel. "Asian Nations Cup 2000". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  26. ^ Lebanon, Football. "العهد الى نهائي كأس الإتحاد الآسيوي لأول مرة في تاريخه". Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  27. ^ "Asian Club Competitions 2005". Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  28. ^ "Lebanon - Al Ahed - Results, fixtures, squad, statistics, photos, videos and news - Soccerway". Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  29. ^ الميادين, شبكة (7 April 2019). "نادي العهد... قصة طموح ومثابرة نحو المجد". شبكة الميادين (in Arabic). Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  30. ^ "Group E: Lebanon 4-1 DPR Korea". Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  31. ^ "Al Ahed clinch historic title". Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  32. ^ "القرار المرّ: نشاط الفوتبول معلّق حتى إشعار آخر". الأخبار (in Arabic). Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  33. ^ "Lebanon - List of Cup Winners". Retrieved 18 June 2019.
  34. ^ "الروماني تشوبوتاريو سيتولى تدريب منتخب لبنان (رسمي)". فرانس 24 / France 24 (in Arabic). 3 June 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  35. ^ "How diaspora footballers came together under the Lebanese flag". TRT World. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  36. ^ "Group E: Lebanon 4-1 DPR Korea". Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  37. ^ "Lebanon optimistic towards women's football future". AFC. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  38. ^ "Lebanese women futsal players kick down barriers". 13 December 2013. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  39. ^ "Lebanon's women breaking new ground". FIFA. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  40. ^ "Lebanon - List of Women Champions". Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  41. ^ "West Asia Womens Championship". Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  42. ^ "Perfect Jordan retain West Asian title". Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  43. ^ a b Abou Diab, Rami (16 December 2019). "Lebanon wins the 2019 U-15 West Asian Football Championship". FA Lebanon. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  44. ^ "THE WAFF- Lebanon crowned the "WAFF U18" title". Retrieved 13 January 2020.

External links[edit]