Lebanon mourns death of legendary football coach Adnan Al Sharqi

The 80-year-old had dominated Lebanese football for 50 years – first as a player, then as a coach

Lebanese football legend Adnan Al Sharqi, who has died aged 80, shows his passion for the game during a men's qualifier for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. AFP 
Lebanese football legend Adnan Al Sharqi, who has died aged 80, shows his passion for the game during a men's qualifier for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. AFP 

One of Lebanon's best-known football figures, Adnan Al Sharqi, has died at the age of 80, after a career of more than 50 years dominating the sport in the country.

News of Al Sharqi’s death from heart failure trended on Twitter on Tuesday, bringing tributes from Lebanon’s sporting and wider community.

Lebanon's prime minister-designate Saad Hariri tweeted: “I am very saddened by the passing of our family friend, national coach Adnan Al Sharqi.”

Mr Hariri described Al Sharqi as “an icon of Lebanese and Arab football”.

Hassan Bittar, a former goalkeeper for the national team, who played under Al Sharqi, described his passing as “a loss the size of the country”.

"He is gone and with him a small part of my childhood and my football career with the national team.”

In 1993, Al Sharqi was head coach in Lebanon’s first campaign to qualify for the World Cup, following the end of the country's 15-year civil war.

As a player, he represented Lebanon’s national team – known by fans as The Cedars – in an Arab Cup and World Cup qualifiers.

Yet his real impact was as a coach. He spent more than 33 years on the coaching staff of Beirut club Al Ansar.

There Al Sharqi nurtured a number of players who would go on to break into the national team.

Through the 1990s, he led the club to a record 11 league titles in a row.

Al Sharqi’s loss was mourned nowhere more than in the ranks of Al Ansar, a club that he turned around from a dangerous slump, and which in turn helped him take his place among Lebanon’s sporting elite.

In the 1990s, Rafik Hariri, prime minister at the time, threw his weight behind the club from the capital's Tariq El Jdideh neighbourhood, becoming one of its principal financial backers.

It was during this period that Al Sharqi became a close friend of the Hariri family.

Al Sharqi had been battling a heart condition. He is survived by two children.

Updated: June 1, 2021 10:46 PM

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