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How Basketball Became Lebanon's Most Popular Sport

How Basketball Became Lebanon's Most Popular Sport

Picture of Amani Sharif
Freelance Writer
Updated: 10 April 2017

In a country with a history of war and strife, it’s not surprising that its people resorted to sports as an outlet. Lebanon has been known to be an active participant in several regional and global sports events and its youth are constantly encouraged to be on the move. It’s also not surprising that basketball quickly rose to fame in Lebanon and here’s why.

Basketball was first played in the country during the 1920s, presumably because of foreign influence. It continues to be one of the sports of choice in schools and universities. This is because basketball is a major sport which does not require much, apart from the ball and hoops.

The annual men's basketball tournament began in 1939 | ©Al Sermeno Photography / Shutterstock

The annual men’s basketball tournament began in 1939 | © Al Sermeno Photography / Shutterstock

Today, the sport has its own federation, which came about in the 1960s. It is backed by the Ministry of Education and Lebanese Olympic Council, which helps the federation achieve a certain level of importance. Its goal is to reinforce athletic spirit, create closer ties with other associations and to maintain the presence of basketball in the national culture.

In terms of competition, Lebanon boasts several different national male and female teams that have rocketed the country into sporting success. Some of these teams include Riyadi, Hekme, Mouttahed, Sagesse and many more. Many have competed in and won regional cups, such as the FIBA Asian Cup.

This is not to say that within the country basketball is not popular. Tournaments are regularly held and aired on television for all the locals to watch. A lot of these teams have huge fan bases and hire players from all over the world to compete with them. The sport has become its own industry which, in its own way, brings the country together to cheer for the teams.

One of the most notable local players is Fadi Al Khatib who plays for Sagesse club and has participated in several FIBA cups and remains an idol for basketball fans throughout Lebanon. Another is Rony Sekeily, a Lebanese player who was drafted into the NBA in the 1980s.

With all the official backing and local spirit, it is only natural that the game has become one of the country’s most popular sports. The goal of becoming a professional basketball player is definitely alive and well among Lebanese youth. The sport brings the divided people together and helps them recognize the importance of solidarity and progression. Basketball is definitely the perfect medium for the reflection of Lebanon’s truly cooperative mentality.