Lebanon News

Thousands gather to watch Lebanon World Cup qualifier

Lebanese football fans watch Lebanon s 2022 World Cup qualifying match against North Korea on a screen in downtown Beirut, Nov. 19, 2019. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Thousands of Lebanese football fans gathered in public spaces across the country Tuesday to watch Lebanon’s 2022 World Cup qualifying match against North Korea, which ended in a 0-0 draw.

Giant screens were set up in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square, Tripoli’s Al-Nour Square and in central Sidon to allow fans to watch the Cedars play.

The match was played behind closed doors at the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium after the Lebanon Football Federation made the decision for security reasons amid ongoing protests.

Around the supporters, protest activity continued, with various groups holding discussions on the future of the country as vendors sold snacks to football fans and demonstrators alike.

Abdallah Karout, a 17-year-old school student who was watching the game from Downtown Beirut, was happy the game was being screened in public.

“Even if we lose, this is our national team and we should support them, especially during the uprising," he told The Daily Star. Karout had been on the streets since early Tuesday morning to help block the roads leading to Parliament.

Earlier on Tuesday protestors blocked roads leading to Parliament's main assembly building in Beirut, successfully preventing scheduled parliamentary sessions from taking place.

“It’s a great opportunity to be able to watch the game together at Martyrs' Square during the revolution,” said 18-year-old Juliana Thebian, a university student.

“It would be really great if a second victory takes place in football after our victory earlier today,” Hassan Haffar said, in reference to protesters blocking Parliament as the first victory.

At one point during the first half, one of the screening's organizers asked for donations. "We are being accused of being funded by the embassies. I’m saying it bluntly, that this screening cost about $900," the individual said, using a megaphone. "We ask anyone who is able to, to donate as much as they can to help us cover these expenses.”

As the game drew to a close, the fans' excitement grew at every chance their team had to score, setting off fireworks and chanting for Lebanon as they would normally do in the stadium.

“It’s unfortunate, because we were the dominant side the whole game,” said Samah, 49, who was watching the game with her son and has been going to Riad al-Solh every day since the start of the protests.

 

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