How Lebanon’s women rugby players are breaking down stereotypes

By Alex Dudley

For this first time in the history of Lebanese rugby, the women’s national side travelled internationally to a competition outside of their native country.

They joined the senior side, U18’s, U16’s and U14’s teams to compete in the West Asia Sevens tournament. They were to find success on their travels also, reaching the final before losing 22-7 to Qatar.

Recalling the experience, national captain Zina Ibrahim was speaking to Asia Rugby. She said: “The experience in Doha was amazing, as a first-time tournament I can’t imagine it to have gone better. Second or first, it was an honour to be on the first national rugby team for women from Lebanon playing in such a tournament.

“To witness the growth of the sport for women and men is something that I have dreamed of for years, and to finally play against such competitive players in itself was more than satisfactory. Coming in second makes me want the first place even more now, and to work harder as a team so that we can win the cup next year.”

Of course, representing her home country in such a monumental occasion is a unique experience, but to captain Lebanon for the competition took the experience to a new level.

Ibrahim continued: “Wearing the jersey, holding my country’s flag, and having the support of my friends, teammates and family back home is such an honour and a blessing.

“I am humbled and blessed to be able to represent my country and to be allowed to represent my team as captain and show what Lebanon rugby has to offer. It also says a lot about our countries in the region as the first to start developing international women’s rugby teams.”

Lebanon have taken pride in the part it is playing in the growth of sevens internationally. However, now they are taking a leading role in helping the sport excel in their own country, while in the process breaking down barriers which used to exist for women; not only in rugby but in all sports.

The Lebanon captain explained: “Rugby in Lebanon is kind of like a family to us. We all know each other, and over the years I’ve seen so many fresh faces welcomed into this ever-growing family. From zero women’s teams to three, the growth is picking up pace, and the more light that is shone on us, the more people are approaching us.

“We’ve got the federation who is fully supportive in our growth, and we’ve got individuals who are coaching for free just to see the dream come alive. “We currently lack funding which is why a lot of the players pay for their expenses, rental of fields and kits but I hope that one day we’ll have a fully developed rugby club for all of us.

“I also hope that one day the stigma against women playing rugby in the Arab region disappears.”