New horizons for women’s football in Lebanon
Lebanon won the 2019 WAFF U-15 and U-18 Girls Championships
Top scorer Layla Iskandar has ambitions to become a professional footballer
Women's football is gaining momentum in the Mediterranean country
When Lebanon entered its current political crisis towards the end of last year, few would have thought of women’s football as an outlet which could unite and bring joy to Lebanese people.
Just days after the dawn of the new year, Lebanon's women U-18 national team won the 2019 WAFF U-18 Girls Championship, following in footsteps of the U-15 national team that won the 2019 WAFF U-15 Girls Championship.
The back-to-back victories in the regional championships boosted women’s football during a period in which the game faced several difficulties due to the civil revolution that started in October last year.
Lebanon's U-18 women's national team finished the tournament that was held in Bahrain on a high note after winning all of their three matches in group stage, before defeating Palestine and Bahrain in the semi-finals and final respectively.
There was an additional Lebanese joy after the final as the tournament top scorer was striker Layla Iskandar who bagged a brace in the final to steer Lebanon to their first title.
“Things were not good back home during the tournament and we really needed such a victory because there was a lot of pressure on us, and we fought very hard to win the title to dedicate it to our beloved country,” Iskandar told FIFA.com about the U-18 team recent's success.
Winning the title and scoring seven goals in the regional championship was only the start for Iskandar, who has ambitions to continue climbing up the ladder and become a professional footballer outside Lebanon.
In addition to training with her club SAS Women and the national team, the 17-year-old forward believes that dedicated training and hard work was crucial to her personal achievements.
“Finishing the tournament as the top scorer was something special for me,” said Iskandar. “I worked very hard with my club, along with the national team, and I also had a private coach who helped me a lot.
“I have big ambitions but, like many others [have found], it’s very hard to achieve our targets in Lebanon. Every girl that plays professional football abroad is an idol for me because she has put a lot effort to make her dream come true,” concluded Iskandar, who is a big admirer of Alex Morgan, describing her as a “lady on and off the pitch”.
The Lebanese Football Association (LFA) has given a lot of attention to women’s football in recent years by organising different tournaments, courses and workshops that helped boost the popularity of the game among women in the Mediterranean country.
By giving extra attention to youth leagues, the fruits of their work were seen in the success of winning the WAFF U-15 and U-18 Championships, as the LFA technical director Bassem Mohamad told FIFA.com.
“There are many reasons for the success of the two national teams as we have good talents who are regularly playing in the women league, which gave them a chance to get more experience,” said Mohamad.
“The LFA with the support of FIFA implemented the project of supporting women football by funding the game and prolonging the period of the leagues and motivating coaches and players."
Mohamad believes there will be more to come from women football in Lebanon as the recent success will lay a foundation for more achievements at international level in future.
“The LFA have a plan to prepare the different national teams to help them qualify for the different Asian championships,” he said. “There is no doubt that winning the WAFF championships will give a boost for women’s football in the country, especially as it was a unique achievement for us.”