On November 19th, just a few hours before Lebanon was to play Iran in an Asian Cup Qualifier, the Iranian Embassy in Beirut was bombed. While news reports will vary as they often do in cases like this, it appears there were two bombs. The first exploded and then after rescuers rushed to the scene the second bomb was detonated to maximize casualties.
Sporting KC's Soony Saad was in the hotel where the Lebanese National Team was staying when he heard the explosions but did not realize what was going on at first. "I was on my laptop at the time actually and I didn't know really know what was going on. I heard these noises pretty loud outside the hotel," Saad remarked to reporters. "I just randomly got up and looked outside and saw ambulances and fire trucks and looked at my phone. All my family was texting me are you okay. Did you see what happened and I put two and two together."
"It was kind of scary at the moment," Saad admitted. "I stayed in and at that time we had a team meeting shortly after the explosions during the chaos. In the team meeting we said the game was still going to go on. We were very cautious but just went about our day."
For Saad who grew up in the United States the turmoil of the region can be unsettling but some of his team mates are more used to it. "I talked to the rest of the guys and they are more familiar with those things happening, they kind of brushed it off but we didn't know the details at the time," Saad said. "The last time I was in Lebanon two missiles struck and it was a little further away but they made it sound like it was really far."
Soony's dad left Lebanon to get away from war, to go someplace where he could raise a family safely. To return to the land of his father and represent the country of his family meant being willing to take some risk. "Obviously there is still a lot going on over there," Saad explained. "The Middle East isn't the most stable region but I knew that going in there. I just went to play for the national team and to gain some experience and I did that. Luckily I wasn't affected by it but I was worried about my grandma who lives right on the same street as the explosions."
Accounts vary but it appears that approximately 25 people were killed and around 150 wounded. "It makes you think about life and there is more to life than just playing soccer," observed Saad. "Very sad, a lot lost their lives and a lot were injured and I'm glad to be home."
This does not deter Soony from wanting to play for Lebanon. "I went to Lebanon and Kuwait to play for the national team, get experience and represent the country. I felt like I did that well," Saad declared. "I look forward to representing Lebanon again in many tournaments and hopefully a World Cup someday."
After drawing with Kuwait a couple days before, Lebanon lost to Iran 4-1 behind closed doors. Soony was on the bench for the match with Iran after having played most of the game versus Kuwait.
Welcome back Soony.