‘I LOVE THE VALUES OF LEAGUE’ SAYS CEDARS’ FEMALE COACH
Rugby league a sport for rough, tough men? Try telling that to Nagibe Hamzeh (pictured). The Kfarhabou High School sport’s teacher has rapidly made strides in what some Lebanese would consider the most masculine of pastimes.
“I found out about a rugby league coaching course through the school’s sport department. The Lebanese Rugby League was genuine, it was very clear to see. They followed up with us after the course and that encouraged me to continue as they were as serious about sport as me” she said.
Since that course in 2008 Hamzeh, 31, from Marayta, north Lebanon, has coached her school sides at Under 14 and Under 16 level and led the Lebanon Under 16s national team on its historic tour to Qatar in January.
“That tour was very much a life changing experience for me: it was the first time I had traveled with a national team” Hamzeh commented. “I was overwhelmed when I saw young Lebanese men from across the country, who didn’t know each other before selection, passionately and aggressively playing for each other and all united under our flag. The only thing on their minds was rugby league - not where they were from or who they were. It made me realize that sport can change minds and lives.”
That sense of unity is a big part of the code’s success and appeal according to Hamzeh, who retains her manager role for the upcoming MENA Under 16s Championship which will be staged from 1st-6th March, when Lebanon will host Palestine XIII and Saudi Arabia Schools.
“I like rugby league as it is not only aggressive but it disciplines the players while being great fun to play. It is also educational in that it teaches respect and manners amongst a great many other things. Obviously the future is in the youth, and judging by the number of times my pupils keep asking for more rugby league you will see it growing quickly. The more they ask for it, the more it motivates me to coach and learn.”
“For this I would like to sincerely thank the LRLF” continued Hamzeh. “They made me realize that sport can succeed in Lebanon and one person can make a difference. I would like to see the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of Education support rugby league even more in Lebanon.”