Religious Tensions Derail Basketball Season In Lebanon
Lebanon's basketball league "was postponed indefinitely as Beirut’s two rival teams -- one backed by Christian politicians, the other by Muslims -- fight over who has control of Lebanon’s most-popular game," according to Barbara Surk of the AP. The controversy between the Christian-backed Sagesse club and Sunni Muslim-supported Riyadi "is yet another sign of how the religious and sectarian tensions that have bedeviled the country for decades still have the power to paralyze Lebanese society." The latest feud "erupted three weeks into the season, which already had been delayed twice because of political interference as both teams pour millions of dollars into new players and coaches." Sagesse President Elie Mechantaf said, "It’s typical Lebanon. Basketball federation is just like the government. We have election, and the side that does not like the result decides to boycott. Shame on us, really." Sagesse supporter Ghassan Nalccor said, "This Muslim against Christian thing came from the war and went into basketball. They come to watch Christians beat Muslims and Muslims beat Christians, and not because they care about basketball. This is Lebanon" (AP, 11/28).