History was made at the Fouad Chehab stadium, Jounieh, when a crowd of around 1,000 saw the Lebanon Junipers women’s side face their Italian counterparts, in a debut international for both nations, the first in the Middle East region.
In a match of notable skill and endeavour, Italy’s Azzuri Women won 22 nil, scoring four tries (two to outstanding prop, Anna Barroin) having led 10-0 at the break. A return match is scheduled for early May.
The event was attended by Italian Consul Giorgio Valerio and Australian ambassador Glenn Miles, the Italian team having been given an official reception by the Italian embassy beforehand.
“We only started to play recently and have a lot to work on, especially at the play the ball,” said Italian skipper and stand off, Valentina Virgili who posted their second try. “But I saw the whole team fighting and not giving up! We can’t wait for the next match.”
Her coach Tiziano Franchini added: “I am very satisfied with the performance, the way the team reacted and improved by the minute. It’s a great result, after starting work with our domestic female movement only in November.”
The Lebanese women’s Junipers were taking the field for only the third time, and this match, which also featured a female touch-judge, has been seen as a springboard for the women’s game in Lebanon, where there are now domestic women’s sides set up at AUB, LAU, Oracs, Jounieh RLFC and Jamhour and a championship is due to start.
Juniper’s captain Nayla Saniour commented: “It was a very intense experience on many levels, and a challenge, to put together in so little time a homogeneous entity, both on and off the field. Official team training sessions were held four to five times a week – on green fields, in the gym, on steep stairs or with indoor video sessions – and players were also selected on their level of commitment and appropriate behaviour to represent the country as a national team.
“This game was a big step for every one of us. We all pushed ourselves, and we managed to play a tough match – one that challenged us as much mentally as it did physically.”
Ghassan Dandash, the Lebanon coach, added: “We have a lot of work to do now, on many levels, but at least we know we have the basics sorted out. What follows is a matter of time, good planning and commitment.”