It says a lot when the knee-jerk reaction to something as disgusting as this is to cry foul and call photoshop instead of calling out those who did that.
It says even more that the men who were holding the Turkish flags weren’t even holding them right: they were just there to tease the Armenian team the team they’re supporting was playing.
I posted the above pictures on my blog’s Facebook page and was immediately inundated by replies that it was photoshopped. No, it wasn’t. Not only was it shared by one of Al Riyadi’s top Facebook fan pages, but a little zooming in and you can see the person holding the flag. Some even tried to defend it. Anything to save face? No, just no.
Perhaps it’s a good thing to have a “it’s photoshopped” reflex in order not to raise tensions, but when faced with evidence that it’s not, the right route is to own up to it and apologize to the team you were playing whose entire history you insulted, to those who support that team whose ancestral struggles you’ve insulted and to your fellow citizens whose fight is a daily, yearly thing to have their genocide recognized. And all for what? Teasing?
There’s a whole other level of disgraceful when you have to sink to such low levels and then try to justify it. Turkey is a good friend to Lebanon? Yes, but that’s not the place to celebrate that. People wanted to commemorate the memory of our victims at Istanbul’s Reina attacks? Really now, against an Armenian team, during a basketball game that followed a period during which organizers for both teams wanted to deviate tensions?
The fact of the matter is that Turkish flag was intentional, and that picture was authentic and the act was despicable. It was even preceded by fans making that “joke” on social media over and over again:
But it’s not a joke. It’s not funny. What it is is disgusting, disgraceful, hurtful and despicable.
To set an example, Al-Riyadi should identify whoever those fans were and ban them from attending future games of the team in order to set an example. It’s easy to dismiss such acts as goofy play, but we’ve experienced them way too often and fans of multiple teams have been banned from courts so repeatedly for things to remain as is. Sometimes, such as this time, you have to call out things as they are so people know that doing them isn’t worth the laughs they got with the bros or that surge of pride they felt when they pulled that flag out of their pocket mid-game.
This is about the mentality that would push a supporter of a particular team, in this case Al Riyadi Beirut, to figure it’s a good idea to insult Armenians in the worst way possible by bringing a Turkish flag to a game and not even hold it properly, or the mentality of a Sagesse supporter chanting Islamophobic slogans just because they can. The examples are endless, and they’ve been thoroughly documented.
I’m 100% certain that this is not what all Al-Riyadi supporters are like as many of my friends are supporters of that particular team and they would never be in such poor taste as to pull a similar stunt. I’m also positive that such stunts do not paint the picture of the entirety of Lebanon’s basketball fans. However, with sectarian and political slogans becoming as part of the game as the ball, isn’t it high time for the entirety of the game to be re-assessed?