Lebanon’s rugby league underdogs
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