BEIRUT: Lebanese sports fans are preparing for the disappointment of missing much of the European football season due to sweeping electricity blackouts and diesel shortages.
As the country enters the latest stage of economic collapse, even the joyful escape of watching a favorite team from England, Spain, or Italy is now being taken away.
Many fans were unable to watch European football’s season opener on Wednesday, the UEFA Super Cup between Chelsea and Villarreal, that went to extra time and was decided in a dramatic penalty shootout.
Due to hours of power failures, thousands of football enthusiasts living in Beirut, Tripoli, Saida, Tyre, Mount Lebanon, and other areas were left with blank TV screens when the match kicked off at 10 p.m. Beirut time.
“We barely get an hour of general electricity per day and yesterday was chaotic as our building’s backup generator ran out of diesel,” Armen, who did not want to give his full name, told Arab News. “They shut it down three hours before the game. I could not watch it.”
Infuriated that the European championships are just around the corner and he will not be able to enjoy “the passion of his life” due to the blackouts, Armen, who lives in Achrafieh, said he followed Wednesday’s match on a football app.
“I could not watch it live,” he complained.
George Maroun, a resident of Mount Lebanon, said he managed to catch up with the middle of the first half at a cafe near his neighborhood.
“Our generator had not been functioning since morning because we could not get diesel. They asked us for a hilarious price of $13 in fresh cash per canister (20 liters),” Maroun said.
Football enthusiast Mosbah Hassan was only able to watch the first half as his building’s generator switched off at 11 p.m. just as the second half started.
At least he managed to catch Hakim Ziyech put Chelsea ahead in the 13th minute, but he missed Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno’s equalizer deep in the second half.
The result remained 1-1 after extra time when Chelsea won the shootout and lifted their second European trophy for 2021 under the management of German coach Thomas Tuchel.
“I could not watch the match because the electricity went off and our generator was empty,” Marwan Moustafa said. “I tried to secure a diesel supply to be able to have the lights on but it was impossible.”
He is now coming to terms with not being able to watch this weekend’s opening English Premier League matches due to the power crisis.
On Thursday, many outraged residents blocked roads across the country after the central bank’s decision to stop subsidizing fuel imports except at the black market rate.
However, for some fans, the depth of Lebanon’s woes has put their love for the beautiful game into perspective.
Businessman and football fanatic Rabih Saad told Arab News that not watching football was a minor issue compared to not being able to perform essential daily tasks due to the lack of electricity.
“I watched the game using my internet data bundle that has been almost consumed for the month,” he said.
Ibrahim Hassan, a former sports teacher, said the committee that oversees his building puts the generator on a break between 10 p.m. and midnight.
“I am a Chelsea fan and could not watch or enjoy the win. I was so grumpy all day long for having failed to convince the committee to exceptionally keep the generator on for the night,” Ibrahim said.
A Beirut sports cafe owner, who identified himself as Mohammad, told Arab News he was flooded with customers because he was able to show the match.
“My cafe is always fully booked when football games are on, especially during Champion League nights, but yesterday clients flocked in by the dozens. Some agreed to watch while standing as their houses had blackouts and no generators.”