Lebanese Basketball: Women’s Goals in the Sport of Discrimination and Collapse

Lebanese Basketball: Women’s Goals in the Sport of Discrimination and Collapse
Lebanese Basketball: Women’s Goals in the Sport of Discrimination and Collapse
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“In 1998, I turned to sports when I was a teenager, and I was given a choice between sports or taking a turn towards less beneficial activities,” Mona Makhzoum tells about the beginning of her journey with basketball to “Al-Modon”. “Then I moved between several teams, until a coach advised me to join the Chiyah team in 2013, which was re-established,” Mona continues.

“The importance of the club lies in the fact that it was established in a strategically populated area that attracted the people of neighboring areas, as there are no clubs or facilities in which young people spend their time. The aim of establishing the club was to encourage young people to engage in sports so that they would not go in another direction,” Mona explains about Al-Shayah Sports Club.

Chiyah Stadium
In 2013, the municipality of Chiyah bought land on which they built a building that includes a sports club, a theater, and a cinema. And I left space for a basketball team to train for Chiah. This move allowed to provide a stadium for the club. It is an important step towards reducing club expenses. As he is not obligated to pay a large amount of money every month for land rent, as long as he does not own his own stadium, unlike the large clubs with huge funding.

As with all clubs, Al-Chiyah Club established one team for males and then another for females. But of course, financiers often care more about the male team, as is the case with all clubs, which leads to higher salaries for male players compared to those given to females, and allows the team to advance faster towards winning the annual Lebanese basketball championship. “There is a general perception that males are easier to work with. Companies prefer them because they are more known and liked by the public,” says Mona.

This funding preference also imposes severe economic hardship on female teams, and reduces the possibility for them to excel in the world of sports. As they are forced to find a full-time job in addition to their sports work, the sports work becomes a secondary income in which they invest less time and effort. Or it may not constitute income at all. The traditional view prevailing in some Lebanese and Arab regions also contributes to the preference of men over women in the world of sports, which limits women’s opportunities to reach funders, because men in sports receive more public interest.

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Climb to the first class
“We are only 10 players in the team, while we should be 15: 12 of us play and three players remain as substitutes so that the players can rest during the match. But due to the lack of financial resources, we have to play the whole match with a shortage of two players and without taking a break from playing at all. And it leads to pressure And fatigue that the teams that receive the interest of the sponsors, and they are mostly the male teams, do not face.” Mona tells us about the difficulty of playing in the absence of interest from the sponsors amid the suffocating Lebanese economic crisis.

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It is worth noting that the women’s team of Chiyah Club won the Lebanese Basketball Championship twice, despite the almost complete absence of funding. The team achieved its first victory in 2016, when it was promoted from the third division to the second. Then the second victory was achieved in November 2022. With the last victory, the team was able to advance to the first division, which includes the best, most famous and professional Lebanese teams.

The first category includes ten teams that compete with each other on the field. Every year, the results of the matches decide who will remain in the first division and who will be demoted. The team score is supposed to be reflected in the players’ salaries. Before the crisis, the salaries of the most famous Lebanese players reached $10,000 per month in clubs with an annual budget of $400,000. Now, the maximum salary is approximately $1,000, with a huge difference between the salaries of male and female players, who may not receive anything or receive a transportation allowance, or their salary may reach $400 in the best cases.

scarce budget
Today, sports teams, both women’s and men’s, are left alone to grapple with the economic crisis amid the almost complete absence of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, which suffers from massive scarcity and economic marginalization compared to other “sovereign” portfolios.

According to Gherbal’s initiative, the ministry’s budget previously amounted to approximately 15.5 billion pounds, or approximately $10.3 million. This budget decreased to approximately 12.5 billion pounds in 2020 amid the fluctuation of the exchange rate. An amount that constituted only 0.06% of the state budget at the time.

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