The other day, I was on the phone with my parents. Of the different things we talked about, one interesting topic was related to a relative on my mother’s side. The person in question was a member of the first Lebanese Women Rugby national team which had just suffered a severe defeat to the Egyptian team. As we all know, losing is as common as winning in the world of sports. Being an athlete myself, severe – sometimes even humiliating – defeats are part of the game that we play. The only thing we can do in such situations is to reflect on the game and figure out the areas we need to improve as individuals and as a team. A former coach of mine once said to me:
“In victory like in defeat, you are allowed to think about it until midnight. Once the day is over, you forget about it and start focusing on the next one.”
– Theo Bucker
However, the topic we were mainly talking was not about was not related to the sports results per se. It focused more on the reaction a Lebanese “reporter” (who will remain anonymous in order not to provide them with any form of publicity) had when sharing the news concerning the game on his social media. Although sports journalists have often been an aspect of sports that athletes and coaches dislike, we tend to understand why they behave, talk and write the way we do. In the end, this is what sells, and therefore, this is how journalists earn their living. Sometimes, the analysis and reactions they come up with can be quite beneficial, especially when their reactions are justified by the analysis provided by former players, which is often the case of the Manchester Evening News whenever they report a Premier League game and ask former players like Roy Keane, Jamie Carragher and Michael Owen for their analyses from a professional standpoint.
In our conversation, the issue was not about the news in itself, but rather about the “reporter’s” reaction to Lebanon’s defeat. When mentioning the scoreline, the author of the news voiced his opinion in saying that women should not be allowed to participate in rugby tournaments if their performance is poorly. As you can imagine, the post was met with criticism from an impressive number people, including the players, their mothers, third parties who viewed the post, as well as myself. It was simply shocking that we live in 2021 and that there are people who willingly dwell in the past.
“Champions keep playing until they get it right.”
– Billie Jean King
As much as I respect freedom of speech, I cannot tolerate opinions that are not backed with facts and/or constructive arguments, let alone when the opinion in question is about something that should not even be up for debate. We are talking about people’s rights. More specifically, we are talking about one of the most important and vital rights in a person’s life: the right to play. My view on that matter is simple: every person has the right to participate in any sport they want to as long as their body is capable of enduring the physical challenges of the sport. It is as simple as that. This is what led to the creation of the Right to Play foundation in order to make sure that every child in the world has access to sports and is able to have fun while building character and deeper bonds with their teammates. Several sports organisations, like Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC, have joined forces with the foundation by providing it with the financial and expert resources.
There are three things that do not belong in the world of sports: racist and sexist discrimination, politics and religion. When those ladies stepped into the rugby field, they did not care about each others’ religion, ethnicity or political opinions. They left those things at the same place where they left their bags and phones: the locker room. The only two things they took to the field with them were their passion for the game and the willingness to make their loved ones and country proud. Playing for your country is the highest honour any player can ever wish to achieve. I personally had the privilege to do that for four years, and they were the best years of my life as an athlete. These ladies are no different than me when it comes to being athletes and playing sports. They have the exact same right to play the game they love as much as I do.
Bad results will always be a part of the game, however it should never be a reason to give up on the game.
These players represent an entire nation struggling to cope with political corruption, economic collapse, a criminally devastating August blast, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The least we should all do – as Lebanese and non-Lebanese – is salute their efforts, believe in their passion, and support them through these trying times.
Ladies, wherever you are, whatever sport you love to play, keep playing.
Keep climbing that ladder till you smash the glass ceiling and prove the system wrong: women have their place in sports at the same level of importance as men do.