Football is already highly politicized in Lebanon, where fans have been barred from some matches since 2005. Celebrated games in the past pitted Lebanese teams against Syrian teams, and turned into celebrations of Lebanese nationalism. More recently, it is the Sunni-Shi'i divide that has demarcated key matches; one of many symptoms of polarization. During a recent visit to Lebanon there were widespread worries (including among civilian supporters of Hezbollah) about the militarization of Salafi groups, particularly in the environs of Tripoli (where there have been recent clashes between Salafis and 'Alawis). Over the past few years Salafi groups held their noses and took Saad al-Din al-Hariri's money and accepted his role as a communal leader, but now they see him as a failed leader and they are making their own way. Recent calls by the Syrian ikhwan for Qatar to assist Lebanese Sunnis are only the tip of the iceberg. The Hezbollah led incursion into West Beirut is widely understood as a Sunni defeat, capped by the Doha agreement. Meanwhile, the horse-trading over the formation of a new government in Beirut only exacerbates the sectarian tensions. The best reasonable hope is that a consensus government--the norm in Lebanon, by the way--will provide a context for dialogue and reconciliation, not further deadlock and recrimination. There are long odds on the former possibility.
FT.com / World - Hizbollah outshoots football rivals: "'Hizbollah only has the Miss Lebanon title left to win,'"