Farah explains Cedars' protest to grow game in Lebanon

Robbie Farah says he still gets stopped in the street by kids declaring their rugby league allegiance to Lebanon over Australia.

Farah and his Cedars teammates have set up camp to prepare for their first outing since the 2017 World Cup amid an ugly dispute with the country's governing body.

Their surprise run to the World Cup quarter-finals two years ago drew praise on both sides of the globe, with Farah invited to Beirut by the Lebanese president last year to acknowledge the team's success.

Already the Lebanese supporter section for Saturday's Test against Fiji at Leichhardt Oval is sold out, where Farah will lead a young Cedars side coached for the first time by Rick Stone.

But the fallout from that 2017 tournament continues, with players planning to tape over the Lebanese Rugby League Federation logo when they take the field.

Robbie Farah at the World Cup.
Robbie Farah at the World Cup. ©NRL Photos

Farah says the Lebanese-based governing body had failed to capitalise on the advancements made by the Cedars at the World Cup, with the domestic competition in hiatus due to the administration's infighting.

Lebanese players boycotted last year's mid-season Test but will return to the paddock this Saturday to begin preparations for the next World Cup in 2021.

Despite the ongoing drama, Farah says the goodwill generated by the Cedars two years ago still resonated.

"We were the first Lebanese team to play at a World Cup, win a game at the World Cup and qualify for the quarter-finals," Farah told NRL.com on Monday.

"The impact on the community has been massive. Still to this day I get little Lebanese kids coming up to me saying that they don't want to play for the Kangaroos, they want to play for the Cedars.

"That sort of impact is priceless. Kids dreaming of playing for the Cedars, that's unreal and we want to keep moving forward and keep giving them a platform to represent their country and their heritage."

At 35 and closing in on 300 NRL games, Farah could easily have put his feet up for rep round and taken a well-earned break.

Lebanon's preparations for Saturday's clash have been hampered by the withdrawal of Josh Mansour as he manages an ongoing shoulder issue, while Mitchell Moses and Adam Doueihi were also unavailable for selection.

But a desire to see Lebanon continue to make strides on the national stage will result in Farah suiting up in the red and green yet again.

He and his teammates will keep the LRLF logo covered though following repeated calls for the board's resignation.

"We haven't capitalised on the success of the 2017 World Cup, and there's issues simmering along in the background that hopefully we can sort out," Farah said.

"We want to become a nation where we are getting regular fixtures against the big teams in the world - Australia, New Zealand, England, Samoa and Tonga. We've got to get our house in order for that to happen.

"As a playing group we want to do what's best for Lebanon and rugby league and right now we don't see that happening.

Lebanese fans at the 2017 World Cup.
Lebanese fans at the 2017 World Cup. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"We want to do the right thing by the game and play our best on the weekend.

"But we're pretty adamant we need change at the top level. There's things that have gone on that just aren't right and there are people involved there that are doing things the wrong way.

"There's no domestic competition in Lebanon so the game can't grow over there until those guys are back playing, and that doesn't happen until we get our house in order at the top level.

"As a playing group here, we support those guys playing in Lebanon and want to see the game grow and be successful for years to come."

 

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