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Syria Annexes Lebanese Soccer

It's not only Europeans whose ethnic and national rivalries are inflamed on the soccer field. The BBC reports that at a World Cup qualifying match in Riyadh between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, the Syrian national anthem was somehow played in … Read More

By / June 10, 2008

It's not only Europeans whose ethnic and national rivalries are inflamed on the soccer field. The BBC reports that at a World Cup qualifying match in Riyadh between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, the Syrian national anthem was somehow played in place of the Lebanese anthem. According to the Beeb, some of the Lebanese "were visibly angry" about the mix-up. I don't get it. So Syria has undermined the sovereignty of Lebanon for decades, laid hegemonic claim to it, instigated and exacerbated bloody internecine conflicts, and (allegedly) murdered the prime minister. Do people really hold grudges over that sort of thing?

More broadly, what's the significance of the switcheroo? Does the Saudi Football federation now recognize Syrian soccer's claims on the Lebanese team's equipment? Or (gasp) is the Assad regime's reach as far as some hyperventilators fear? If it's any consolation to the Lebanese, they and the Syrians will probably all be introduced at international sporting events by the Hezbollah anthem before too long. And when they get the chance to play Syria next, they can fire themselves up with Phil Bennett's infamous pep talk to the Wales rugby team just before a match against England in 1977:

Look what these bastards have done to Wales. They've taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our homes and live in them for a fortnight every year. What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We've been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English — and that's who you are playing this afternoon.

And of course, if Lebanon beats Syria at soccer, that settles everything, right? So hang in there!

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