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Why is Lebanon so in love with the World Cup?

BEIRUT | - June 12, 2014, 18h25
As the world cup starts tonight with the Brazil - Croatia game at 11pm, attempts to understand Lebanon’s love for the tournament and the logic (if any) behind the teams the Lebanese are supporting.
Lebanon loves the world cup. Actually, that is an understatement. Lebanon adores the world cup and it doesn’t make sense because Lebanon is not even in it, and never has been!

World cup fever has been heating up in the streets of Beirut for a while now. You see the flags dominating shop displays, hanging from windows and covering various parts of cars. It is really going to shake up Lebanon. Because of the time difference between Lebanon and Brazil, where the tournament is taking place, some games will finish at around 3 in the morning and speculators are already discussing how this, coupled with Ramadan, will affect productivity in the Middle East.

So what is it about the World Cup that has people so excited? Let’s consult the man (and woman!) on the street.

A firm ‘akeed’ (of course) was the overwhelming response from men to ‘will you be watching the world cup?’. Most women too, affirmed their enthusiasm for the competition, although some flatly refused to discuss the subject. For many, it represents a welcome distraction and change from daily life and as Johnny, 42, put it bluntly, ‘It’s better than watching the government.’

The two clear favourite teams are Brazil and Germany. People tried to assure me that their support for Brazil was not a passing fancy but in fact goes back a long way. For most it was due to their admiration of the skills of the team, others mentioned the diaspora ties between Lebanon and Brazil. Until the conclusion of the championship on 13th July, Brazil will be the adopted (football) homeland. Muhammad, 35, said he would watch only as long as Brazil stays in.

Love for Germany also seems to have deep roots. The third most successful team in the history of the cup (after Brazil and Italy) is a reliable bet, sure to provide some quality football. For some, however, admiration for the team is only skin deep. 18-year old Rita told me she was supporting Germany because ‘Germans are hot’!

Of course peer pressure plays its role. Madeleine, 45, revealed to me that her first choice team was Italy but there is less hassle for her at home if she supports Brazil.

However, as most people prefer to watch matches at home with all the family, there are worries about whether this will be possible. Despite efforts by Tele Liban and the Emir of Qatar to offer the world cup on state TV, exclusive broadcasting rights have gone to cable TV company Sama who are planning to charge $110 for the complete world cup package.

Perhaps this means cafes screening the matches will over flow with customers or perhaps people will find legally questionable ways to keep up with their favourite teams at home. One thing is for sure, Lebanon with its diverse allegiances will be transformed, for one month, into a feverish microcosm of the football-crazy world.
#World_cup_2014, #FIFA_2014, #FIFA, #Football
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