Prior to 2019, Lebanon, home to a population of 5.5 million was known in financial circles as the ‘Switzerland of the Middle East.’ Then, everything changed. The ensuing economic and currency collapse led to multiple challenges for the country, and football was not unscathed.
The Lebanese Football Association’s plans to renovate a swathe of stadiums was suddenly stopped in its tracks. The work was not only planned to support the upper echelons of the country’s football, but also ensure that football activities to engage the nation’s youth, could continue to be organised.
Faced with clear funding challenges, the FIFA Forward programme provided a glimmer of hope, enabling the Lebanese Football Association to overcome the difficulties that led to a near paralysis of its football activities.
FIFA FORWARD 3.0 was launched in January 2023, providing a more comprehensive funding and support of football development projects across the world than ever before. Two successful iterations of the programme have been completed since its inception in 2016 with over 2.8 billion USD committed to a diverse array of plans that provide locally-relevant backing to the needs of the six confederations and 211 member associations.
In total, FIFA Forward funds of USD 1,292,532 were invested into the renovation of four Lebanese stadiums: Al Safa Stadium, Sin El Fil Municipal stadium, Al Ahed Stadium and the Zgharta Sports Complex. This work has now been completed with the stadiums serving LFA at all levels including:
• Running Domestic competitions
• Hosting women’s and girl’s competitions
• Youth competitions
• National team’s activities (men and women)
• Coaching and refereeing workshops
Sin El Fil Municipal Stadium
The Sin El Fil Municipal Stadium celebrated its opening ceremony on 11 January 2023 after undergoing extensive renovation last year.
The stadium hosts lower division matches, and youth competitions. Lebanese youth national teams have also held training sessions in the stadium, along with top-flight clubs in East Beirut like Sagesse SC and Racing Club.
Al Safa Stadium
The Safa Stadium is a multi-use stadium in Beirut, Lebanon and serves as the home for Safa SC. The stadium has a capacity of 4,000 people.
Al Ahed Stadium
Al Ahed Stadium is located in the Al-Ouzai area of Bourj el-Barajneh, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon. The stadium can accommodate about 2,000 spectators and is used by Al Ahed FC as a training ground.
Zgharta Sports Complex
The Zgharta Sports Complex is a 5,000-capacity stadium and home to Salam Zgharta FC, as well as other clubs in Zgharta. The stadium underwent renovation between June and August 2022, in order to host matches in the 2022–23 Lebanese Premier League.
Jihad El Chohof, Lebanese FA General Secretary, expressed his and the association’s gratitude for facilitating the significant upgrade of the facilities.
“Without FIFA Forward Funds, especially in this unprecedented financial crisis that our country has gone through, we wouldn’t have been able to ‘revive’ Safa Stadium, located in the heart of the capital which attracts a large number of players from all age categories and of both genders” he said.
“LFA is always striving to develop football throughout the country, and since the lack of stadia represented one of the main challenges, the FIFA Forward funds helped us overcome this barrier, ensuring we could continue with our commitment and dedication to develop our beloved game.”