7 February 2011
Rabie, Ahmad and Mohammed Al Masri, three young, educated Palestinian refugees from Lebanon, have long dreamed of creating a professional rugby team to represent Palestine and show that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are talented people who deserve to live in dignity.
Since 2008 they have been making that dream reality. Rabie Al Masri, director and founder of the Palestinian Rugby League, started training potential players from different Palestinian camps in Lebanon, with no financial support whatsoever. All he had was physical strength, iron will and determination to compete.
This was more than enough for the ambitious brothers to teach the game to their fellow refugees, who longed for some entertainment and a way out of their gloomy life inside the camps. The Al Masris viewed it as a personal challenge and as a means to prove that, despite the odds, Palestine refugees in Lebanon are talented and want to live in a healthy community.
Talking about his dream, Rabie stressed: “The goal was to help the Palestinian youth inside the camps reflect the best image of Palestine, and stay healthy and fit. This game will help the players vent out their distress on the pitch. Sports help build bridges between societies especially the Lebanese and Palestinian refugee communities in Lebanon.”
Rabie, who is a graduate in Management of Sports Organizations from Audencia School of Management in France, and Ahmed, who is considered one of the best players in Lebanon in his position, have achieved one success after another.
So far, they have gathered 80 players to form three Palestinian teams. The under-14s ranked second in the Arab championship in Lebanon in Bhamdoun, while the under-16s ranked third in the Middle East and North Africa championship.
Rabie also emphasised the importance of developing the talents of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. He said: “While looking for potential players, we were surprised with the level of talent in many camps. Unfortunately, we are still awaiting official recognition as the Palestinian National Rugby League due to some communication problems with the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority. Another major obstacle is the funding and sponsorship for the teams created.”
Rugby originally developed from a version of football played at Rugby School in England and was one of several different versions of football played at English public schools during the 19th century. Rugby league is a game based on fundamental values: respect, courage, team work and ethics. Young Palestinians in Lebanon want to show their talent, strength and ambition, but most importantly they want to be able to live in dignity until their problem finds a just solution.
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