When Brazil beat Croatia in the opening game of the World Cup on 12 June, Lebanon erupted in fanfare. Although it was the middle of the night in the diminutive Middle Eastern nation, fireworks were wantonly set off while cars and motorbikes draped in Brazilian flags made endless circuits accompanied by a cacophony of horns.
Among residents of Lebanon immune to World Cup fervour, the sudden commotion prompted a variety of creative interpretations. One friend of mine woke up convinced that Palestine had been liberated from Israel, while another assumed that his neighbourhood was under mortar attack. A friend’s uncle speculated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been killed. Others thought Lebanon had finally managed to elect its own presidentafter weeks without one.
A recent AFP article on the World Cup frenzy contends that the Lebanese “display a near-fanatical enthusiasm for chosen proxy nations” - fitting vocabulary, perhaps, given Lebanon’s history as a preferred site for international proxy battles. Citing a common Lebanese perception of “World Cup mania as one of the few non-political events in a country often marked by political and sectarian divisions”, the article ends with a quote from a 24-year-old Germany fan who describes the football competition as “a unifying event”.