In most countries around the world, football supporters often live in fractious relations with the authorities. But there’s always somewhere that has it worse — unless you live in Lebanon.
There, James Montague of the IHT tells us, all supporters have been banned from attending matches, for fear that their presence could raise tensions amongst rival religious and political factions.
Montague goes on to explain how this sad situation has come about.
In the aftermath of the war last year between Hezbollah and Israel, the Interior Ministry ruled that the fragile peace in Lebanon could not stand the rigors of its highly divisive soccer derbies, where riots between rival fans were commonplace.
This season was to be different, with the fans returning to their seats. But with the country on edge over its inability to elect a new president, a decision was taken to lock the spectators out again.
Rahif Alameh, general secretary of the Lebanese Football Association, said that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora had “directly interfered in this case.”
It doesn’t sound like the situation will be resolved any time soon, but fans haven’t given up.
At Bourj Hammoud Stadium in the Armenian quarter, again the army patrolled outside and the game kicked off in an empty stadium. But several hundred fans dotted the tops of surrounding rooftops and lined a nearby overpass. Cars swerved to avoid the growing crowd on the road.
“It’s dangerous. There are mad drunk drivers driving past,” said Jeffery, a Sagesse fan who declined to give his last name. “But you can’t blame the government. People are afraid of the fights, some people are crazy and mad.”
Their support was in vain. Racing overpowered Sagesse, 2-0. However, Jeffery said he would be back for the next game. “I’ve supported this team for 40 years. Can I stop now? How can I stop now?”