Women’s fut­sal team seeks sup­port of fed­er­a­tion

Na­tional squad al­ready pre­par­ing for 2020 cham­pi­onship af­ter last year’s dis­ap­point­ment

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - SPORTS - FUT­SAL By Lea Akil

BEIRUT: A col­lec­tion of pas­sion­ate fe­male fut­sal play­ers ran across the Saint Joseph Univer­sity in­door sta­dium at a steady pace. The sounds in the room var­ied from squeak­ing shoes to in­dis­tinct com­mu­ni­ca­tion as the play­ers col­lec­tively strove for con­ti­nen­tal suc­cess.

Prac­tice starts at 9 p.m. and takes place five times a week.

The Le­banese na­tional women’s fut­sal team have be­gun rig­or­ous prepa­ra­tions for the 2020 AFC cham­pi­onship in the hopes of bet­ter­ing their dis­ap­point­ing per­for­mances from 2018.

The un­sat­is­fy­ing re­sults suf­fered in the pre­vi­ous cham­pi­onship – they were elim­i­nated in the group stages with one win from three matches – have mo­ti­vated the play­ers to push harder. How­ever, Maroun El Khoury, the coach of the women’s na­tional fut­sal team, ex­pressed be­lief that the out­come was par­tially in­flu­enced by the ne­glect of the fed­er­a­tion to­ward the team.

Khoury was hired to coach the group in Fe­bru­ary, a few months be­fore the May 2018 AFC fut­sal cham­pi­onship. Af­ter the tournament, he wrote a pro­ce­dural doc­u­ment, aim­ing to achieve more promis­ing re­sults in 2020. But weeks passed be­fore he heard back from the fed­er­a­tion, Khoury said.

“The na­tional sports fed­er­a­tion doesn’t have ex­penses. The girls don’t have trans­porta­tion, the coaches are vol­un­teers and our sta­di­ums are pro­vided by USJ. All we ask for is at­ten­tion from the fed­er­a­tion,” Khoury told The Daily Star.

Af­ter a pe­riod of si­lence con­cern­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions that in­volved his plan and the cre­ation of the sea­sonal pro­gram, Khoury was sur­prised to re­ceive a sched­ule for the men’s fut­sal team that ex­cluded the women.

Meet­ings were ini­ti­ated be­tween the clubs, coaches and the na­tional fed­er­a­tion in a bid to solve the prob­lem. Af­ter talks hit an im­passe, the women’s team was de­prived of a fut­sal sea­son. Khoury ex­pressed con­cern that they could en­counter the same is­sue in the com­ing sea­son.

A mem­ber of the Le­banese Na­tional Fut­sal Com­mit­tee, Dory Zakhour, told the Daily Star that there was a con­flict be­tween the new by­laws and some of the women’s clubs, so the fed­er­a­tion took the de­ci­sion to post­pone the sea­son.

In re­sponse to Khoury’s claims, Zakhour said the fed­er­a­tion was not de­priv­ing the women’s team of fi­nan­cial sup­port, but that the men’s team re­quired more fi­nances due to their more de­mand­ing sched­ule.

The sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the fut­sal com­mit­tee, Salim Awada, de­fended the de­ci­sion made in 2018 to post­pone the fut­sal sea­son. He blamed the clubs for their lack of co­op­er­a­tion to find com­mon ground.

“The clubs were not ready to sac­ri­fice for the team and the com­mit­tee was not go­ing to back out of their plans,” Awada told The Daily Star.

Reem Chal­houb, a player for fut­sal club SAS and the women’s na­tional team, told The Daily Star that the main con­flict be­tween that clubs and the na­tional team was the lack of co­or­di­na­tion be­tween club train­ing and that of the na­tional team.

She ex­pressed con­cern that the play­ers could be ex­posed to in­juries due to in­suf­fi­cient rest be­tween club train­ing and na­tional team ses­sions.

Awada said the com­mit­tee is­sued a de­ci­sion to work with the plan that sep­a­rates foot­ball from fut­sal pe­ri­od­i­cally, adding that the is­sue of play­ers be­ing ex­hausted and get­ting in­jured would be solved af­ter the new sched­ule was im­ple­mented.

Chal­houb also ex­pressed be­lief that the team was not get­ting the pub­lic sup­port it needed due to the lack of me­dia cov­er­age. “The fed­er­a­tion is de­priv­ing the women’s team of hav­ing the same me­dia cov­er­age as men,” Chal­houb said.

The for­mer cap­tain high­lighted that her con­cern was a com­mon one among the play­ers and coaches be­cause me­dia at­ten­tion was a way to achieve pub­lic recog­ni­tion for the team and would en­cour­age spon­sors to in­vest. Chal­houb rec­og­nized the fed­er­a­tion’s sup­port in some as­pects, such as equip­ment, but crit­i­cized its ne­glect in others.

Awada ar­gued oth­er­wise by list­ing the ef­forts made by the com­mit­tee to­ward the women.

He said it pro­vided as much cov­er­age as pos­si­ble and that un­like the men’s team, the women got live cov­er­age as well as recog­ni­tion on the of­fi­cial web­site.

Khoury, mean­while, re­mained op­ti­mistic about fu­ture re­sults, ex­press­ing be­lief his charges were pas­sion­ate and com­mit­ted play­ers ca­pa­ble of great achieve­ments. “We are not far from suc­cess,” he said.

The women’s AFC Fut­sal Cham­pi­onship will take place in July 2020.

Prac­tice starts at 9 p.m. and takes place five times a week.

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