Le­banon’s rugby league un­der­dogs

The Week Middle East - - News -

Le­banon is not a coun­try renowned for sport­ing prow­ess, said Aaron Bower in The Ob­server. And in rugby league, it is truly a min­now, sit­ting be­low Malta in the world rank­ings. Yet last week, in the Rugby League World Cup, it pulled off an ex­tra­or­di­nary up­set, de­feat­ing France 29-18. It wasn’t able to re­peat the trick against Eng­land last Satur­day, los­ing 29-10, but still did far bet­ter than expected.

Just one of Le­banon’s play­ers was born in the coun­try, said Christo­pher Irvine in The Times. The rest come from Aus­tralia, which is home to 200,000 peo­ple of Le­banese de­scent. Five of them, in­clud­ing Rob­bie Farah and Mitchell Moses, play pro­fes­sion­ally in Aus­tralia; the rest are part-timers, many of them elec­tri­cians and builders. But rugby league is grow­ing rapidly in Le­banon it­self, said Dave Woods on BBC Sport on­line. Hav­ing only ar­rived in the late-1990s, it is now the coun­try’s third most pop­u­lar sport, with five clubs and 1,000 reg­is­tered play­ers. And un­like other sports, rugby league fea­tures Mus­lims and Chris­tians “in the same teams”. The trou­ble is, Le­banon’s present suc­cess is un­likely to con­tinue, said Sam Dean in The Daily Tele­graph, as the num­ber of Aus­tralians in the side is about to dry up. To play for Le­banon, play­ers must have a Le­banese par­ent or grand­par­ent. But as many Le­banese mi­grants ar­rived in Aus­tralia in the 1970s, “the num­ber of el­i­gi­ble Le­banese-Aus­tralians will soon start to dwin­dle”.

Mitchell Moses: plays in Aus­tralia

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