Basketball players in Lebanon have abandoned their dreams for a better future

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“I sold my first car today.” At two meters and five centimeters tall, Charles Tabet stands beaming to sell a customer a white 4×4, kicking off a business trip after a ten-year rally in the Lebanese Basketball League, where worsening economic conditions pushed him to retire.

The 33rd son abandoned the most successful sport in “the country of the cedars”, returning to Michigan in the country of origin the United States and looking to a career away from basketball. He saw the auto trade as a guarantee for his family’s future, in light of the players’ salaries affected by the decline in the local currency exchange rate, in a country that is experiencing one of its worst economic crises since it gained independence in 1943.

“The decision to retire was not easy, as I played for ten years in Lebanon, where I had many friends and even became part of my family,” Tabet, an elite player in Lebanon, told AFP. “It is unfortunate that what is happening in Lebanon economically and the intensification of the financial crisis, people do not deserve this,” added the player of the clubs Anibal, Al-Hikma, Al-Mutahid Al-Riyadi and Beirut previously.

Basketball stole attention in Lebanon, with Arab and Asian successes for Al-Hikma and Al-Riyadi clubs in the 1990s, it withdrew to the national team, which qualified three times to participate in the World Cup in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

In his 2006 participation in Japan, he succeeded in defeating the ancient French national team, knowing that he is a permanent guest in the Asian Championship that qualified a few days ago to its next edition scheduled in 2021. In contrast to the most popular game in the Middle East, football, Lebanese basketball has flourished. Its clubs are distinguished professionals from the United States of America. I became the envy of the underpaid soccer players compared to the orange giants.

But with the onset of a suffocating economic crisis that resulted in widespread popular protests in October 2019, four international players retired, in light of the suspension of the league, whose tragedy deepened due to the repercussions of the emerging Corona virus.

“I work in a car dealership because my brother Robert is a finance manager at the largest auto dealership in Michigan, and he encouraged me to go through this experience,” Tabet recounts his transition from the world of sport to business. Regarding the deterioration of the exchange rate of the lira against the dollar by about five times, in addition to a banking contraction that placed restrictions on accounts in foreign currency, Elie Rostom, the captain of the Lebanese national team, says, “Things are foggy and the game is heading for the worse because of its connection in everything that is happening in the country, so we are looking for any An opportunity to migrate from the game and we no longer trust this sector.

In turn, Tabet says, “Athletes can turn out to be great businessmen. We are competitive, we know what hard work consists of, and we are driven to succeed. I’ll be fine! ”

So far, the Lebanese-American Daniel Fares (33 years old), a player for Al-Hikma and Chanville clubs between 2010 and 2020, has retired to work in New Mexico, which defended the colors of its university between 2005 and 2009. The 2.06m tall player owns a store that sells medical supplies and supplies. As for # Gerard Hadidian (25 years and 2,01 AD), he went to professionalism in the Armenian League and work in the country that bears its roots. Elie Chamoun (26 years old), a player for Beirut club, became a management consultant in a local company. Also, a number of other players are considering taking similar steps in light of the paralysis that strikes the game.

Athletes express remorse for not paying attention to their educational and professional lives instead of sports, according to Rustum (33 years old), “We made plenty of money from basketball and we should go to investment after retirement.” “In the past few years, the basketball market started to decline and most of the players faced a dues crisis with their clubs … It was then that the idea of ​​practicing a different job began to arise with many colleagues,” adds a graduate of the College of Engineering who received an additional degree in Sports Management. “I started a job in a real estate company in addition to my investments in restaurants in (the capital) Beirut, and basketball is no longer my priority. My participation with the national team was only to raise the name of my country and to remind the fans of the existence of this game.

As the crises worsened, coaches moved to foreign tournaments, especially in the Gulf. Coaches Sarkis and Fouad Abu Shakra packed their bags to Saudi Arabia, the sports coach of the young Lebanese champion, Ahmed Farran, to Kuwait, and Marwan Khalil had a long-term contract with Manama, Bahrain.

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