Listen to the article

Women in sports continue to wrestle with marginalization and gender biases, despite their dedication and skills that rival their male counterparts. Nevertheless, a rising tide of resolute female athletes is shattering these barriers, sending an unequivocal message: women can be champions too.

In a realm once dominated by men, Lebanese female athletes are stepping into the spotlight, delivering knockout punches to longstanding stereotypes and social taboos. These women are proving that, on the field, the game knows no gender, and their victories are the ultimate slam-dunk.

From football and basketball, to wrestling and weightlifting, women are scoring achievements that resonate far beyond the confines of the sports arena.

In basketball, Lebanon’s women’s team defeated host nation Jordan with a resounding score of 80-40, securing their place in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Women’s Asia Cup Division A. In a recent Asia Cup classification match, Lebanon narrowly defeated Chinese Taipei by two points, thanks to point guard Rebecca Akl’s remarkable 27-point performance, including a last-minute basketball.

On the football field, Lebanon’s under-16 national team scored a historic win, clinching the West Asian Cup for the second consecutive year. Most recently, the national women’s team achieved a significant 4-1 victory against Laos on Monday in the first round of the International Women’s Friendly Championship second edition in Saudi Arabia. The tournament is hosted by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation in Taif from September 18 to September 30 at King Fahd Sports City Stadium. Lebanon currently tops Group B with 3 points, followed by Bhutan and Laos.

“I was about 12, I watched the women’s football team in Lebanon play a game and I sat a goal that I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to be like them and I wanted to represent Lebanon and show that women’s football is not something to be looked over,” said Selena Malaeb, goalkeeper of the Women’s National Football Team.

However, despite these athletes’ performances, they continue to wrestle with age-old gender biases that have stubbornly prevailed in their field.

“It is hard to know that I won’t have people’s support if I go places. As the women’s national football team in Lebanon, we are on a row, we won three championships in three years, we won round one in the under 20 Asian Cup. We just need a little bit of support and help to achieve more than we already do,” Malaeb said in an interview with This is Beirut.

In Lebanon, derogatory phrases aimed at female athletes continue to demean and stereotype their abilities. Though this practice is gradually receding, these phrases are often yelled as insults, mockery or bullying when women engage in sports or even enjoy athletic activities as hobbies.

“They [people] used to call me ‘Abo Ali’ (a masculine name) but it used to motivate me. It means that I am like Mohammad Ali who is the greatest boxer in history,” said Sandra Succar, Lebanon’s MMA champion.

These derogatory phrases stem from age-old gender stereotypes that have placed formidable obstacles in the path of women aspiring to excel in sports.

“Gender stereotypes can lead to discouraging women and girls from pursuing sports. They may face criticism or pressure to conform to traditional gender roles instead of participating in athletic activities,” said Ziad El Natour, Assistant Coach of the Women’s National Basketball Team.

Succar secured the title of world champion at the age of 22, becoming the first Lebanese female fighter to bring home an MMA gold medal. She believes that change must begin with the younger generation. She emphasizes the importance of educating youth about the potential career opportunities in sports.

“There should be more awareness campaigns in sports about the career you can make in sports,” she noted.

As these athletes continue to score the goals and land the punches, they remind everyone that in sports, gender biases are a hurdle that can be cleared with skill and determination.

Today, Lebanon’s female athletes are changing the game, and their victories are more than just a home run; they are a testament to their indomitable spirit and their ability to score big in the face of adversity.