For Libya, football is like water and air – the essential essence of life. But war had deprived these football hungry fans from their essential life of football.
For two and a half years, Libya had not seen a football match involving a foreign team on their soil.
The national football championship for the country had been cancelled and their national team played their games in Morocco or Tunisia.
These football loving fans were hungry of their favourite sport. And Ghana Premier League club Accra Hearts of Oak changed that for them.
No pouring rain or damning storm was going to stop these fans. And they proved it as the flocked to the stadium in a downpour to see one of Libya’s top clubs Al-Ahly take on Ghana’s Hearts of Oak in a friendly in the militia-held capital Tripoli.
For the duration of 90 minutes of football action, fans in the stadium had forgotten about the war and Abdel Hamid who was at the stadium with his son and nephew said:
“For us Libyans, football is like water and air — the essence of life.
“It was 90 minutes of joy that we had missed for a long time. Libya does not deserve such a fate.”
The fans waved flags of Al-Ahly and ‘Free Libya’ as they enjoyed the view of a football game the turmoil had deprived them off.
When Al-Ahly scored the first goal of the game, fans rushed to the pitch side to cheer with their team. It was a feeling that had long been taken away and they loved its return.
An ecstatic 17-year-old Mohammed al-Qassem said:
“I felt tremendous joy.
“The Libyans are big fans of football but four year of turmoil mean we seem to have forgotten the pleasure of the game.”
Coach Jamal Abu Nawwar of Al-Ahly said after his side beat Accra Hearts of Oak by three goals without reply:
“Today we have given joy to thousands of Libyans who are crazy about football. Politicians must be more attentive to that.
“It was not just a game but a message from Libya to the world showing a different image.”
Hearts of Oak lost the game but they won the hearts of Libya football fans. And these fans want more of the gesture the Ghanaian team had shown. They want to forget their plight. They want the joy and peace football brings.
In unison they chanted:
“The people want African teams to come to play in Libya.”