The dream of a federation in Lebanon

Posted on | October 28, 2016 | Category: News

Diana Malaeb dreams about starting an orienteering federation in Lebanon. She has already started a cooperation with the Lebanese military and is optimistic about realizing her plans.

26-year-old Diana Malaeb had worked a few years as architect before she decided to switch focus in her life completely. From a friend, she heard about orienteering:

– I already had map reading skills, partly because of my job as architect but also because of my background as scout, Diana Malaeb says, and says about her Jordanian friend who introduced her to orienteering:

– He said I should bring the sport to Lebanon, and that thought started to grow in my mind. What if I could start an orienteering federation in Lebanon? she says.

The only problem was that Diana had never actually been orienteering. With help from her friend, she went on a trip to Turkey where she spent three days competing in orienteering events:

– The first day I came ninth, the second day I got totally lost and on the last day I finished in 20th position, she says with a laugh.

After the experience in Turkey, she became even keener to bring orienteering to Lebanon.


The wheels are set in motion

Diana Malaeb’s dream is for orienteering to become a nationwide sport in her home country:

– I contacted the Department of Sports to get more information about how to start a federation. I was told that at least four clubs must be involved with orienteering and after two years you can apply to become a federation. It will be very tough. I do not know yet how many people would be interested in starting a club, but I am still just in the starting process, she says.

Is it difficult to find other people who are passionate about orienteering and willing to put energy into the project?

– For me, it is about finding people who are dedicated and, as I do, see all the advantages of the sport, she says.

Diana Malaeb plans to be active on various fronts, partly with the military, scout federations and schools.

In a military context, many people do orienteering, but somehow the sport has not spread to the civilian society yet.

– One of the elite runners in the military has told me that everyone within the military takes part in clubs in their spare time, for instance in a soccer club. However, none of them do orienteering in their spare time. That does not makes it easier to get new people into the sport, she says.

The advantage of the military already being involved in orienteering is that you find a lot of orienteering maps around.

– I have been in contact with the head of the military sports section. They are willing to offer their support. For instance, they can help by explaining to people that we do not disturb the land if we enter private areas, she says.


Getting help from scouts

Another way to spread orienteering is with help from the scouts. There are 40 different scout unions in the country, says Diana Malaeb:

– My plan is first of all to focus on youth. I can reach them through the scout unions and schools. I do not think I will get a break through only by presenting it as “a cool sport where you run around in the forest”. In addition, I will have to emphasize the educational aspect of orienteering.

In what way do you find it educational?

– The children learn to plan and take quick decisions, to make their own route choices and to become more independent. That is really good. In Lebanon, we have a lot of forest, mountains, and valleys. Perfect for training, she says.


Two-year perspective

Exactly when a federation will become a reality is difficult for Diana Malaeb to say. Among other things, it depends on how active she will be visiting schools:

– I will start small and try to get orienteering introduced in schools and after that try to host bigger orienteering days for the pupils. My plan is that many young people will participate in orienteering and hopefully it will get their families involved. I see a big potential in youth. We just have to show them the sport, and how fantastic it is to explore the world via orienteering events. I think many long for that.

How will you get good coaches?

– The Turkish orienteering coach Veysel Güler will visit Lebanon for seven days and teach and educate a group of people. They can pass on the knowledge afterwards. That is the first step.

Which sports are trending in Lebanon now?

– Many are interested in exercise but most do not do a specific sport. For example, many people go to the gym instead. However, I also see an increasing interest for hiking, Diana Malaeb says and continues:

– I think orienteering has the potential to attract many new people because it is a sport for the entire family. In addition to that, it has a big effect that the military is behind the project. It will attract more people. Now we just hope it will continue to be calm in Lebanon, and we can avoid the disturbances going on around us. However, we are used to it. Since I was little, there has been troubles in the Middle East.


Attended O-Ringen academy

Through the Turkish coach Veysel Güler, Diana Malaeb heard about O-Ringen academy, which aims to support and develop orienteering around the world.

– It has been wonderful to be a part of and I am happy that I have met people from all over the world. It is good to hear other people’s stories and how they handle different challenges. In addition, the trainings have been really good, with the possibility of help from a shadow. In the afternoons, we were taught Livelox and analyzed maps, she says.

In total, twelve people from nine countries participated; Armenia, Egypt, Hong Kong, Japan, Lebanon, Moldova, Singapore, Taiwan and Turkey.

In addition to Lebanon, Armenia and Singapore are also not yet members of the IOF. In Singapore, there is progress. A federation has been founded and awaits approval from the Singaporean Sports Federation. Armenia is approximately at the same stage as Lebanon.

Göran Andersson is in charge of the O-Ringen academy:

– Lebanon is an interesting country in many ways. The country is war-torn, but they still have a lot of life and joy, Göran Andersson says.

– Diana can work on different fronts to achieve the forming of a federation, both with schools and with the scout federation. Working with the scouts, she has the possibility to become an associated member. It is a good idea to work on that instead of forming a completely new federation. It is also smart to have the military as partner. It was through the military that orienteering started in Turkey, for example, Göran Andersson says.

The article is translated from Skogssport 8/2016 with permission from the editor.
Photo: Stina Loman/Skogssport



“I hope Lebanon soon will be part of the orienteering family,” Diana Malaeb says.

Diana Malaeb is fighting to spread orienteering in Lebanon, so that more people can run in the tough and wonderful terrain the country offers.

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