Lebanon the latest to join the international Touch family
Feb. 11, 2022 @ 0:00 UTC
FIT's endorsement allows Lebanon Touch Association to expand the game in the West Asian nation and the opportunity to recapture the glory days of past World Cups.
The Federation of International Touch has started 2022 with a bang by announcing its endorsement of the Lebanon Touch Association (LTA) as a member.
The West Asian country's relationship with the sport of Touch started in 1998, and it is FIT's 48-member nation and the 13th NTO from the rapidly expanding Asian region.
Peter Topp, Director of FIT, congratulated Lebanon Touch Association on joining the international Touch fraternity. "I'm confident LTA will become a valued member nation, and on behalf of the Board, we're excited about working with President Mr Georges Aoun and his team at LTA."
Lebanon made an immediate impact on the global scene
Lebanese Australians founded the six-a-side game in Lebanon with immediate success. In Lebanon's international debut in 1999, the fledgling nation qualified for the World Cup, where its Men's Over 30s won an outstanding silver, while the Mixed Opens scored bronze and Men's Open finished in fifth.
Two years later, the Lebanese Men's U18 team finished in fourth, and the Men's U20 came in sixth in the Youth World Cup held in New Zealand.
In the 2005 Youth World Cup, the Men's U20s maintained impressive momentum, winning the bronze medal, while the Men's Opens team scored bronze in the 2007 World Cup.
However, after this meteoric start, a surfeit of administrators stalled Lebanon's Touch momentum. Kay Bardawil, Communication Director of LTA, explains, "As there was no governing body, Lebanese teams were not allowed to participate in international competitions as of 2007.
"To put it differently, touch has been part of the Lebanese sports since 1999, and after being banned from international competitions, touch became common around rugby players in their off-season."
But Lebanon was able to re-enter the international fold when Lebanon Touch was officially recognized by the Ministry of Youth & Sports Lebanon in April 2021 as the governing body of Touch in Lebanon."
A standalone sport that is popular in Beirut
Kay Bardawil says there is no official association with any other rugby federation in Lebanon. She says, "Touch is played chiefly around the Beirut area, on re-dimensioned football or rugby pitches around the city.
"Player registration is ongoing since we are a newly established federation, but we have around 150 players who participated in 2021 tournaments."
Lebanon Touch is chomping at the bit to return to international tournaments. "The endorsement from FIT is a massive milestone for us at Lebanon Touch, and it is what we have been working so hard for the past few months.
"Being endorsed by the Fit comes with great advantages of which, benefiting from the knowledge and experience of the FIT management team. They will help us train qualified coaches and referees who will grow the sport in the country. This also means that we will have international tournament exposure for our players."
Moreover, Lebanon can't wait for its first international engagements. "We are also looking forward to facing the heavyweights in the region such as Japan and Singapore, as it will help us to build capabilities and player's expertise.
"It is not common for us to face such countries, and we are happy that bringing Lebanon Touch to this platform will allow such matchups. It is a nation's pride!"
Eyeing the schools for future talent
Kay Bardawil confirms that LT is working very closely with schools and clubs to introduce the sport to PE teachers and ambitious coaches.
"We will help teachers with FIT's input to become officially certified coaches. This strategy will help us grow the game's roots with our youngsters.
"We are also targeting veteran rugby players who would want to switch to a safer form of rugby, which they typically enjoy in their off-season. This strategy will eventually get us more audience and therefore grow the games on other levels, on a country-wide scale."
However, Lebanon Touch is also mindful of the challenges ahead. "With everything happening in Lebanon, including multiple crises, it is not easy to grow anything in Lebanon, let alone a new sport," says Kay Bardawil.
"However, with the small yet strong team we have at Lebanon Touch Association, we are more than excited to be working with FIT to manage the multiple challenges this upcoming year.
"Touch has excellent potential in Lebanon, and we at LTA are aware of the undeniable opportunities that this sport will bring to our players."