Ruined floors, wrecks, and corroded facilities that have been turned into a military barracks or a granary and flour mill. This is the case of the sports city in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, which, like several football facilities and stadiums, has become a victim of neglect in a country experiencing its worst economic crisis.
The Sports City, or “Camil Chamoun Sports City” as it was called, was built during his reign as President of the Republic in 1957. It witnessed several Lebanese and Arab stations being the largest sports edifice, its star gradually declining over two decades.
In the year of its construction, Al-Madina Stadium hosted the Arab Games in October at the time.
It returned from under the ashes after being violently bombed during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and was a witness to the civil war (1975-1990). It was rebuilt and opened by hosting the Arab Games in 1997, before the Asian Football Cup (2000) and the Francophone Games (2009).
But the damage today is not the result of external factors. Neglect has accumulated for years, and a lack of interest in sports in general, in addition to the severe economic crisis that Lebanon has been facing since the beginning of the year 2020, through the huge explosion in the port of Beirut, which destroyed part of the capital and resulted in a large number of victims on August 4 of the same year. .
Consequently, the stadium is now unfit to host the national team matches during the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, according to the head of the Lebanese Football Association, Hashem Haidar.
Haidar said in an interview with AFP, “The Camille Chamoun Sports City stadium was damaged by the Beirut explosion. It was necessary to find an alternative stadium so that the team would not have to play far from its land and its fans.”
He added, “We reached an agreement with the federations of the competing teams to play Lebanon’s first leg matches in the opponents’ land, to make way for the rehabilitation of Sidon Municipal Stadium (one of the three AFC Asian Cup 2000 stadiums, about 40 km from the capital), to meet the conditions required for the International and Asian Federations.”
– “Is this a football field?” –
Lebanon will play its first home match against Iran on November 11, in the fifth round of qualifiers, before playing the UAE on the 16th of the same month. Lebanon occupies fourth place in the first group of the decisive round in the Asian qualifiers, with two points from two draws and a loss, knowing that it will face Syria on Tuesday in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
A delegation from the International Federation (FIFA) visited Sidon stadium about a month ago, and expressed its satisfaction with regard to maintenance and equipment work.
Haidar indicated that another stadium equipped with natural grass had been rehabilitated in the southern town of Babylon, in cooperation with the International Federation, to adopt it as a training ground for the Lebanese team exclusively.
Neglect also affects Beirut Municipal Stadium, which is hundreds of meters away from the Sports City in the Al-Tariq Al-Jadida area. It bears witness in the Lebanese memory of the many victories of the capital’s poles, Nejmeh and Ansar, and was the headquarters of the “Men of the Cedars” team in the 1990s.
Former Lebanon coach Miodrag Radulovic once said that “it’s a shame to play on similar pitches,” as did South Korea coach at the time, German Uli Stielike, who asked, “Is this a football field?”, referring to the Sidon Stadium, which saw the two teams meet during the qualifiers. Qualification for the World Cup Russia 2018.
Likewise, in the eastern suburbs of Beirut, the municipality stadium of Bourj Hammoud, which was the most prominent stadium in Lebanon during and after the civil war for several years, is now forgotten due to its grounds that are not suitable even for amateurs, like the stadiums of clubs, especially the historic Al-Safa Club stadium in the Wata Al-Musaytbeh neighborhood in the capital.
The solution to artificial turf? –
Those in charge of the sports sector in Lebanon, especially the Football Association, see the “artificial grass” stadiums as a haven for the game, especially as they save a lot of material costs, as they do not need irrigation, care, fertilizers and pesticides.
Lebanon national team captain Hassan Maatouk (34 years) believes that the option to furnish the stadiums with artificial turf is only to save money.
“Stadiums with natural grass are very expensive, with very difficult potential for clubs and municipalities,” he told AFP.
The Al-Ansar club player pointed out that this has many negatives, “it shortens the life of the player athletically (…) this season only, there are five injuries to the cruciate ligament between the clubs, in my opinion, this is caused directly by the industrial stadiums,” blaming the government for the negligence, as it “does not take over the sector.” Athlete needs attention.
Or privatization? –
The head of the General Organization for Sports, Youth and Scout Facilities in Lebanon, Riad Al-Sheikha, points out that neglect is the result of accumulation for many years without maintenance.
“The budget that is monitored is very simple, and it does not suffice the minimum required to manage this sector,” he told AFP, describing the situation as “catastrophic.”
The Sheikha considers that the ideal solution is “public-private partnership, as the government’s priority in other sectors, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports comes at the last priority,” hinting at “the difficulty of finding a private partner who accepts this responsibility, especially with the deteriorating economic situation and the Corona pandemic.” .
Several party bodies had revealed violations in the Sports Facilities Foundation, including the Sports City, as the head of the sports sector in the Free Patriotic Movement (the President’s Party), Jihad Salameh, said in a television statement that there were “corruption scandals and waste of money”, calling on the judiciary to investigate. In which.
© 2021 AFP