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Middle east

Hariri camp and Hezbollah lock horns – on football pitch

Text by Julien PEYRON

Latest update : 2010-04-14

Lebanese members of parliament and ministers from all sides have made a temporary truce to play a game of football, donning red and white jerseys for a friendly match on the 35th anniversary of the Lebanese civil war.

Only one national hymn, sung in unison by the two teams. On one side, the Reds, led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri. On the other, the Whites, headed by Ali Ammar, a member of parliament for the pro-Syrian Hezbollah movement.

A rather unusual confrontation took place Tuesday night in a Beirut stadium. The two teams were made up of Lebanese cabinet ministers and parliamentarians, united on one pitch to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the beginning of the Lebanese civil war.

The match, played under the slogan “We are all one team”, took place under the appreciative gaze of President Michel Sleiman, who wisely kept to himself which team he was rooting for.

'Ali Ammar has no defence strategy'

Prime Minister Saad Hariri hailed a match “organised between brothers from the same country,” who "represent the entire Lebanese population". He added, “When Lebanon plays as a team, it can conquer.” His good humour may have been aided by the fact that his team won 2-0.

Blessed with both technical and tactical superiority, the Reds basked in their victory. The two-time scorer and fierce Hezbollah adversary Samy Gemayel took advantage of the victory to goad his Shiite rivals for their lack of football prowess. He said that the final score proved that Ali Ammar, the white team captain and Hezbollah MP, "has no defence strategy".

Gemayel’s cousin Nadim Gemayel, who was pitted against his relative on the white team, admitted that “Saad Hariri had a good offensive strategy” before adding that the white defence was at any rate "essentially targeting Israel, which represents the true enemy of the Lebanese people."

The old antagonisms and hostilities were thus forgotten for the duration of this one game. At the match's end, all players – without exception – exchanged cheek kisses before convening on the benches for a group photo.

Date created : 2010-04-14

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