Lebanon Rugby League Federation bans 17 national team players over Pacific Test protest


July 01, 2019 16:03:08

The Lebanon Rugby League Federation (LRLF) has banned 17 of its players for protesting against the way it was running the game.

Key points:

  • The 17 players banned by Lebanon include a number of NRL stars, including Robbie Farah
  • The players threatened to cover up the Cedars’ logo ahead of a match against Fiji
  • The Lebanon federation threatened action from the country’s public prosecutor if the protest was to proceed

The banned players — including NRL veterans Robbie Farah, Josh Mansour and Tim Mannah — have been charged with “misconduct for breaches of its operational rules” affecting the mid-season Test against Fiji.

The LRLF said the 17 players “have been suspended with immediate effect from all Lebanese rugby league activity pending the outcome of misconduct proceedings”.

Most of the players played in the 58-14 defeat on June 22 at Leichhardt Oval, although Mitchell Moses, Mansour and Adam Doueihni were named in the statement despite not playing in the match.

The players have been asked to appear before a misconduct panel, which the federation said would be “independent in composition and chaired by a RLIF [Rugby League International Federation] official to ensure transparency”.

Rugby League civil war takes new turn

The axing of the national team is the latest in the escalation of issues affecting the Middle East’s rugby league outpost.

The feud between the players and the governing body started in lieu of Lebanon’s narrow quarter-final defeat to Tonga at the 2017 World Cup, with players saying not enough had been done to capitalise on the success of the team at the tournament.

Farah had been an outspoken critic of the Lebanon Federation in the build-up to the mid-season Test, saying the country risked falling further behind the Pacific nations of Tonga and Samoa if changes were not enacted.

The Wests Tigers hooker, who retired after the Fiji defeat, hoped to highlight issues with the process to elect the board.

“We want what’s best for the long-term future of the game in Lebanon,” Farah said.

However, the Lebanese federation responded angrily to players threats to cover up the Cedars’ logo on their playing strip.

The LRLF released a statement prior to the Test saying, “it is a criminal offence to denigrate the national emblem of the Republic of Lebanon”.

“The LRLF will not tolerate any insult to the iconic, national symbol of the Republic of Lebanon and its people,” it said.

“The Lebanese public prosecutor’s office has been made aware of the incident and will launch an investigation in coordination with the LRLF.”

The players eventually decided against the action, but LRLF chief executive Nayef Abi Said still spoke of his “outrage” at the move in the days after the Test.

“The Cedar tree is the symbol that unites all Lebanese, thus our outrage regarding this detestable act,” Mr Said said.

“National team players should be proud of representing their country and it is a great honour bestowed on any player to represent Lebanon.

“Patching any logo on the jersey is not permitted at all, it is a sign of disrespect, it is not a protest.”

The players named in the statement are: Adam Douehi, Toufic El Hajj, Michel El Tom, Ahmad Ellaz, Robbie Farah, Nick Kassis, Anthony Layoun, Michael Lichaa, Bilal Maarbani, Tim Mannah, Josh Mansour, Abbas Miski, Mitchel Moses, James Roumanos, Chris Saab, Ali Saad and George Yazbek.






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