Last summer, excitement in Lebanese football was high, mainly in anticipation of the National Team’s historic participation in the Asian Cup in January, their first major tournament in 19 years. Indeed, this year was to be arguably the most important year in Lebanese football history, and with ambitions of making it to the knockout stages of the Asian Cup for the first time, it was more crucial than ever that the domestic game had a strong year. However, unfortunately, it was to be quite the opposite, as numerous issues amounted to provide one of the worst seasons in Lebanese football since the end of the Civil War.
Friday night saw the biggest derby in Lebanese football take place under the lights of the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium, with Nejmeh and Ansar fighting for a place in the FA Cup semi-final. This was the biggest game of the season, especially since Ahed cruised to a third successive league title and with Nejmeh and Ansar both wanting to avoid another trophyless season. Lebanese football fans had been waiting for this game for months, and it didn’t disappoint in terms of entertainment.
Just over a month ago, Lebanon’s Olympic Team participated in Asian Cup Qualifiers with no preparation and as result finished 3rd in their group. Then, a few weeks later, it was the turn of the under-19s, who participated in the ISF World Championship (a non-FIFA tournament) in Serbia and achieved an impressive 8th place out of the 24 participating teams. This is a stark contrast between two generations who are only a few years apart and yet, there is a logical explanation for this contrast: the FA.
Earlier this week, it was confirmed to us that Miodrag Radulovic, Lebanon head coach since 2015, would not continue with the Cedars. This comes after four years which saw him qualify the team for the Asian Cup for the first time in their history, during which they clinched their first ever tournament win in the 4-1 victory over North Korea, as well as go on a 16-match unbeaten run between March 2016 and October 2018. We might very well find out who replaces him after the LFA Executive Committee meeting on Monday. Here I take a look at some of the possible candidates for the job:
This week is a massive week for the Lebanese Olympic Squad (Under-23), as they prepare to travel to Saudi Arabia to participate in the 2020 Asian Cup qualifiers. However, they go there with non-existent preparation as the FA has shown very little interest in the youth teams and very little planning when it comes to their management and development.
On Monday, Nejmeh will begin their 2019 AFC Cup campaign in Amman, facing Jordanian champions Al Wehdat in their first game in the competition since May 2017. The pressure is on the Nejmeh players and coaching staff after Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat to Salam Zgharta that has left Ahed 8 points clear at the top of the table and seemingly on their way to a third successive title win. In addition, this season’s performances have been underwhelming to say the least, and the fans are demanding success on the continental stage.
After having rated the performances of every member of the Cedar’s squad at this year’s Asian Cup, I will now highlight six players from the Cedars who caught the eye at the tournament.