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Thunder is rumbling among the ultras, unhappy with Sagesse’s modest performances to say the least. The last game, against Antonine (80-79), was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After a far from successful stint in Dubai, with just one win in five games, Ragheb Haddad was quick to react on social networks, “You don’t represent this club. You don’t understand the value of the shirt you wear. You don’t know the history and passion that the fans have for this club. You play only for your salary, which you don’t deserve! HONEST!!!”

This sharp reaction from a young president reflects a latent frustration among the Sagesse ultras. What is it really?

The Golden Age of Wisdom

It’s hard to discuss the overhaul of Les Verts without mentioning one of the pioneers of Lebanese basketball and an emblematic figure of La Sagesse, Antoine Choueiry. When he was elected club president in 1992, Les Verts immediately attracted international attention. A visionary of the game, combining a new format and the arrival of new foreign talent on the Lebanese floor, local basketball saw its name shine with a complete list of successes, both in Asia and worldwide.

Les Verts de la Sagesse were born into the world of basketball in 1992, and since then, the Lebanese club has been crowned Lebanese champion eight times, winner of the Lebanese Cup (7), winner of the Arab Cup for Champions Clubs (2), and triumphant in the Asian Cup for Champions Clubs (3) and the West Asian Cup for Champions Clubs (3).

The saga came to an abrupt end with the resignation of Antoine Choueiry in 2004, leaving behind a legend engraved forever in the club’s history. Despite a revival under Henry Chalhoub, who won the Lebanese championship in the 2005-2006 season, the Greens have not tasted victory again for 17 years. The years went by, the coaches succeeded one another, the team spirit was often there, but success eluded Wisdom.

Internal problems weakened the club, particularly at the start of the 2013-2014 season, marked by numerous squabbles within the board of directors. This led to the election of a new president, Elie Yachouchi, who finally resigned a few months ago, leaving his place to the young Ragheb Haddad.

Youth in Force

What’s going on at La Sagesse? The thunderous arrival of Ragheb Haddad as club president, succeeding Elie Yachouchi, seems to embody a desire for renewal and youth within the team led by Jad el-Hajj. The young president’s strong reactions to recent (counter-) performances raise questions about the club’s smooth running, but according to a source close to the club and a fervent supporter of La Sagesse, “Ragheb Haddad is a young president who brings a new mentality to modern sport. He will learn from these obstacles to gain experience. We are aware of the fans’ expectations and understand their reactions.”

With a budget approaching $2 million, is it time to give the coach carte blanche to put together the team needed to revive the Greens? Ragheb Haddad expresses his dissatisfaction with the team’s repeated defeats, not knowing the importance of the jersey and playing only for the money. Performances stagnated, although Jad el-Hajj is more than capable of leading La Sagesse to another title. Between team cohesion and chemistry, it’s potentially talent that’s lacking. According to the same sources, “We are currently working on recruiting new players.” “The best talents are currently playing in the Chinese division.We can confirm to our fans that, from mid-March, new players will be joining our ranks in positions 4 (strong winger) and 5 (center-pivot).”

Staying true to the philosophy of the Choueiry years, a mercato can be fruitful for Sagesse. Who to keep and who to sell? According to our sources within the club, a rotation involving certain international players such as Kenyan Acuoth Deng and Tunisian Redhouane Slimane seems imminent, the latter not responding to Jonathan Gibson’s performance as part of a winning system. The trend could change over the course of the season, but one thing is certain: local basketball is living up to expectations. Ragheb Haddad could be the solution to energize the club. Also noteworthy is the recent appointment of Jean Abdelnour as head of basketball at La Sagesse. The former national team captain and Riyadi player could bring a new dynamic to the team. “He has a winning mentality and a head start on the game. He will also bring freshness to the rotation of players alongside Jad el-Hajj,” our source reports.

Vice-president Sami Saleh expresses confidence in the youth that the club embodies, but he knows that success won’t come from a simple wave of the “magic wand’.” “We’ve only been here three months. The club has had its defeats and victories, but is currently in second place in the league.We understand the fans and are also working behind the scenes on projects within the team to inject new blood.”

Where Are the Ultras?

The ultras expressed their discontent in recent weeks, with insults, damage and violent gatherings. The frustration is palpable and getting out of hand. This pressure prompted the Sagesse board to react, with president Ragheb Haddad declaring, “There would be no Sagesse without our supporters,” in an interview with MTV.

To understand what happened, an ultra, wishing to remain anonymous, spoke out, “I’ve been supporting Sagesse for 40 years.We wait and continue to hope, but there must be changes in the game.We have an excellent coach, but the team doesn’t convince me.We need to change the way we play. What happened last time was a reminder to the management and players that we’ll do everything for the club.”

As for Saleh, he remains optimistic, “We have a good team and we’re well placed in the championship. But we need to be patient and recruit better. Not all the staff are bad. We, the fans, must remain loyal and not act violently. This is our club and we’re all losing together.”

La Sagesse is losing fans and the loyalty of some is being called into question, with some even switching to the “opposing camp,” like this anonymous supporter, “I’m changing clubs, I’m now on the Riyadi side. It’s better for me.”

Expectations around Sagesse are high in this second half of the season. Will this reshuffle be stable and sustainable? That’s for Jad el-Hajj’s men to answer on Sunday. Sagesse takes on Beirut Club at home (4:45 PM), a perfect opportunity to give supporters and ultras a reason to keep believing.