Since 1998 when Hazem El Masri and co decided to reject playing for Australia full time and grow this great game in his homeland of Lebanon, there has been consistent improvement across 21 years.
Now in 2019, Lebanon captain Robbie Farah is fuming over the decisions by NRL clubs and Lebanon nominees to reject playing in the upcoming clash with Fiji this Saturday.
Lebanon has played in 51 international matches during the 21-year period of their existence in rugby league circles, and a quarter-final birth in the 2017 World Cup allows them automatic entry for the 2021 showpiece event. Yet Farah has labelled his frustrations at players unwilling to sacrifice their week off to grow the game in Lebanon.
“For those players that aren’t here… it is disappointing and a bit disrespectful” exclaimed Farah to The Sydney Morning Herald.
“But until we start taking these games seriously… the game isn’t going to grow.
“I’m very passionate about Lebanon rugby league… I’m 35 – a week off would have been great for me,” he said in response to those choosing to rest.
“It’s more important for the team and for the future of Lebanon rugby league that I’m here and that the other senior players are here.”
Parramatta and Wests Tigers have been reluctant to allow stars Mitchell Moses and Alex Twal to participate in the game due to significant on-field load at the NRL clubs.
Josh Mansour was unable to pass his medical yesterday ruling him out and due to a recent return to full fitness from his shocking ACL injury Adam Doueihi subsequently ruled himself out too.
Farah’s anger comes at his beliefs that those playing at Island nations such as Tonga and Fiji, as well as the big money teams of Australia and New Zealand, regularly commit themselves to international football, and players not doing the same for Lebanon is detrimental to its growth in the smaller nation.
“I don’t think it has been taken serious,” he said.
“We are pretty serious about wanting some change and the change isn’t for our own gain.
“You can’t expect the game to grow if that isn’t happening and our International accreditation is going to be stripped off us if there isn’t a domestic competition.”
Farah strongly believes moving forward the stars can “put self-interests aside” and “do what is right for Lebanon rugby league”.
Lebanon Vs Fiji will take place at Leichhardt Oval from 5.40pm this Saturday.