Today Lebanese football wakes up to the devastating news that the Shabab Sahel head coach, “Hajj” Mahmoud Hammoud, has passed away from COVID-19 aged just 57 years old.
Hammoud had a successful playing career with Lebanese giants Nejmeh as well as a short stint in Qatar with Al Khor. As a coach, he bounced around Lebanese football but most notably left a mark as Shabab Sahel head coach where he did a tremendous job. Under his tutelage Sahel went from the second division to second spot in the first division where they currently stand, via a fifth placed and a third placed finish and also picking up a first ever Elite Cup for the club in 2019.
As a coach I admired the way Hammoud evolved the team. It is not an easy thing for other clubs to break through the big trio that is Ansar, Nejmeh and Ahed considering their financial advantage but it is a testament to Hammoud’s coaching ability that he was able to compete with them and turn his side into a title challenger through sheer discipline and tactical nous. He was also an excellent developer of players, as is proven by the fact two of the most recent debutants for the National Team, Walid Shour and Fadel Antar, did so while playing under him.
His loss is a huge one for all the people that knew him and also for Lebanese football as a whole as he was clearly one of the best coaches in the local game and had a bright future ahead of him still. There is no doubt he was there was a future National Team head coach in him.
Today Lebanon’s game against Algeria in the Arab Cup will be played in his honour, a competition that will remember his winning goal against Saudi Arabia in the 1988 edition which led to jubilant celebrations in the streets of a Lebanon still in the midst of a brutal civil war.
Hajj you will be sorely missed.