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An African Footballer in Lebanon – An Untold Tale

Abdoulaye Kanoute runs past the defender and scores once again to the delight of the Shabab Al-Ghazieh fans. If you remember, the excited Kanoute spoke to us (https://ahdaaf.me/2015/04/friday-with-abdoulaye-kanoute/) a few months ago on his situation as a semi-professional footballer in Lebanon.

The season had ended with his release from Shabab Al-Ghazieh being confirmed as he returned back to Mali, something that wasn’t the worst of what was ahead. “Myself and Stanley [Echabe], two of the three foreigners at the club, were promised $5000 should Ghazieh finish 10th and stay in the Premier League.” Ghazieh not only finished 10th, but in 9th place thanks to the 13 goals scored by the gigantic Kanoute.

His partnership with Mamadou Dico, the third foreigner (left in the January transfer window to be replaced by Steve Okoh) was out of this world. Together, they scored over 15 goals and helped Ghazieh to become the 6th best goalscoring team in the league. However, in January, Dico was released by the board and Kanoute was devastated that he lost someone who he described as his brother. “Ali Hassoun [Ghazieh Secretary] didn’t give Mamadou his last salary and I made a problem with him for that but what can I say, this is football. It was difficult for me but I had to have a good season for the people of Ghazieh and for myself. The people of Ghazieh in my time were amazing and made me feel at home.”

  

What the President did had nothing to do with how Kanoute was embraced by the tiny city in the South. This was a tough indicator of things to come for Abdoulaye, who says he wants to move on and play somewhere else in the Middle East. “Iraq was an option but now with clubs from Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait contacting me I believe that my future in the next season lies there.” Abdoulaye looks for advice from all corners, checking for Arabic archives for histories through clubs that don’t pay their players. Lebanon’s enigmatic goalkeeper Ziad Al-Samad departed Saham in Oman after being released with no salary paid for months. This is just an ounce of what foreigners have to deal with leagues that only provide qualification to the AFC Cup (equivalent to the UEFA Europa League) such as Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Bahrain, Syria, Iraq and Kuwait. It is a completely different story in the likes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.

“It was embarrassing, the fact that I had to believe that I would be paid that amount of money. Ali Hassoun said that he couldn’t pay us due to the fact that the Federation didn’t give him or the club any money”. That’s right, there is no prize money in Lebanon; only TV money. $280,000 is divided amongst the club based on where they finished, which means that Ghazieh would have only earned around $15,000 for their performances in the 2014/15 season. If Ali Hassoun were to spend the $5,000 on each foreigner due to the promises he gave, Ghazieh would have to be stabilised by Ali Hassoun’s own pocket.

Secretary of Shabab Al-Ghazieh, Ali Hassoun.

Secretary of Shabab Al-Ghazieh, Ali Hassoun.

Therefore we can see what the situation is here. The President promises incentive for the players to motivate them, only for them to experience lies and devastation. These players are not money grabbing mercenaries, however they leave their home country to a place recommended by their agents with the sole reason of keeping a family and doing what they love. Clearly, that is not the situation anymore.

Abdoulaye Kanoute had a stellar season and managed to keep the Ghazieh fans happy for a whole season, and it’ll be interesting to see where he goes next.

 

About Hamoudi

The man behind the idea of Ahdaaf.me. Based in Dubai, Hamoudi will bring you an unprecedented level of coverage of the Alfa Lebanese League in English as well as the best of the UAE’s Arabian Gulf League. With dreams of working in the coaching industry in the near future, don’t be surprised by the amount of tactical analysis that he works on to bring in a modern day feel to the very scarce analysis on Middle Eastern Football. (PS: Beware of his rants about the ignominious status of football in his native country Lebanon…).

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