International football returns to Libya after seven-year hiatus | Football News

Libyan football fans are enjoying the return of international football, despite their team’s 5-2 loss to Tunisia in Benghazi.

The Libyan national football team lost to Tunisia on Thursday, but supporters in the eastern city of Benghazi still had reason to rejoice as international football returned to Libya after a seven-year hiatus.

International football had been banned in Libya for several years as the North African country was ravaged by conflict.

Tunisia, nicknamed the Eagles of Carthage, won 5-2 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match played behind closed doors due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic at the formerly known Benina Martyrs Stadium under the name of the Hugo Chavez stadium under the regime of the overthrown leader Muammar Gaddafi.

This defeat means Libya cannot qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations to be held in Cameroon in January 2022.

The Libyans opened the scoring in the 22nd minute but were quickly overtaken by the Tunisians’ quick and pressing style, conceding three goals within 30 minutes of their opener.

A second goal early in the second half gave the Libyans reason to hope, but it was dashed after Tunisia scored the fourth and fifth goals towards the end of the game.

Even though the loss hurt, Libyan fans still celebrated the return of football to their homeland, with many flocking to cafes to see their heroes against their Tunisian rivals and neighbors.

Libyans at a cafe in Benghazi celebrate their team’s first goal against Tunisia [Abdullah DOMA/AFP]

Libya descended into chaos after Gaddafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, which resulted in multiple forces vying for power.

The Libyan national football league was suspended in 2019 due to the deteriorating security situation.

Fighting did not end until last year, and an official ceasefire announced in October was followed by the establishment of a unity government led by interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.

The Libyan Premier League resumed play in January.

Ashraf Mazeg, a Libyan fan, said Thursday’s result was expected as the long period of suspension meant that Libya-based players had limited recent match time.

“The defeat was expected in this result due to the cessation of the championship and the players are not physically ready, but I hope the coach will choose better players – there are better players in Libya, but they are not ‘weren’t chosen,’ Mazeg said.

Still, others have said defeat is a tough pill to swallow, no matter how inexperienced their players may be.

“The Tunisian team is strong, and they have strong clubs, like Esperance and Sfaxien, who face each other in the African Champions League, but we didn’t expect the result to be like that. But that’s the equipment the coach has, and that’s what the players he has, ”said supporter Mahmoud al-Badri, who nevertheless expressed optimism about the team’s upcoming matches.

Whatever the outcome, many claimed that the lifting of the Libya playing ban, which forced the national team to play most of their international matches in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, was a victory in itself. .

“It’s a positive thing, which is to allow the game to be played at the Benina Martyrs Stadium, and God willing, the next one [match] will be better, ”fan Abdalla al-Shiekhi said.

Despite the loss, many Libyans celebrated the return of international football to their country [Abdullah DOMA/AFP]

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