LEBANON

Lebanese World Cup fans throw their weight behind... anyone but Lebanon

Only a few weeks to go till kick off - and while not everyone's got tickets to South Africa, there is another option... Lebanon. Who cares if their national team isn't competing - the Lebanese are some of the world's most fervent fans. They just have to select one of the competing teams. Looking at the array of flags hanging in the streets, it seems they are already gearing up for each of their preferred teams.

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A flag salesperson. Photo published on the Independence ’05 blog, 30 April 2010.

Only a few weeks to go till kick off - and while not everyone's got tickets to South Africa, there is another option... Lebanon. Who cares if their national team isn't competing - the Lebanese are some of the world's most fervent fans. They just have to select one of the competing teams. Looking at the array of flags hanging in the streets, it seems they are already gearing up for each of their preferred teams.

The flag phenomenon

Our Observer sent us photos taken in a street in Beirut on 21 May.

"Girls choose a team by physique, so most of my girlfriends support Italy!"

Maha Awada, 28, lives in Beirut. She works for a shipping company.

It was about a month ago when the wave of flags invaded the country. They are all over the streets, on cars and hanging off balconies. People wear the colours of their favourite team - which are mainly the teams which have a chance of winning. This year the most popular are Germany, Brazil, Italy and England.

The Lebanese are careful in choosing the team they're going to support before the World Cup starts. Usually their choice is based on recent performances on the pitch, but sometimes other criteria are considered... Girls for example choose a team depending on the physique of its players. Because of that, most of my girlfriends support Italy!

The flag phenomenon was born during the civil war (1975-1990) and is now part of local tradition. The custom has given birth to a real business. Every four years, flags vendors invade the streets, toy shops and book stores. I even got requests at work to import multinational flags from China.

There is nothing wrong with hanging the flag of a foreign team, but I have asked my friends to also hang the Lebanese flag. While Lebanon will not play in the World Cup, the basketball team is going to the world championship in Turkey, from August 28 to September 12."

Photo taken in Tripoli, north Lebanon, and published on the +961 blog, May 19, 2010.

Photo taken in Tripoli, north Lebanon, and published on the +961 blog, May 19, 2010.

Flag vendor in the street, photo published on the independence '05 blog, 30 April, 2010.

Photo published on the independence '05 blog, 30 April, 2010.

The Brazilian flag. Photo published on the independence '05 blog, 30 April, 2010.

The Italian flag. Photo published on the +961 blog, 13 May, 2010.

Small Argentina flag. Photo published on the independence '05 blog, 19 May, 2010.

Photo taken during the 2006 World Cup, published on the Souwar website on 21 June, 2006.