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VIENTIANE http://www.cheapnfljerseyslions.com/Ricky-Wagner/ , June 17 (Xinhua) -- South Africa's first black president Nelson Mandela once famously said of football: "It has the power to change the world ... it has the power to inspire ... it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does."
So with the globe's most popular sport making headlines for the wrong reasons, it is good to be reminded of one of football's greatest strengths: the ability to bring people together from some of the least likely places on earth.
This was evident Tuesday night as a small but highly-charged vocal Lebanese expatriates cheered on their team some 9,000 km away from home in the National Stadium in Vientiane.
Teams and supporters representing the two countries found themselves facing off in the first of their two 2015 encounters after having drawn group G for the FIFA World Cup second qualification in the Asian Confederation.
Among those who watched in what turned out to be a comfortable 2-0 victory for Lebanon were Grace Madkour and her two children along with her friends from the tightly-knit local international community.
Waving what appeared to be the sole Lebanese flag amid a veritable sea of red, white and blue banners of supporters of the home team, Madkour was clearly relishing the all-too-rare opportunity to see her national team compete in a place thousands of miles away from her home country.
Joining her in the stands was Laos-based management consultant Rida El Chab http://www.cheapnfljerseyslions.com/Greg-Robinson/ , also more than comfortable in both Vientiane and Beirut.
Hailing from a country that is no stranger to the concept of a deep and well-dispersed diaspora that spans hemispheres, the two joked that together they could well make up the entirety of the Lebanese community in Laos.
Speaking to Xinhua during the half-time break, both admitted to being less-than-fully briefed on the ins and outs of their team's current lineup, although there was no doubt as to where their loyalty lies.
"I left Lebanon a long time back, so I don't really know the composition of the national team now but I am here to support my countrymen http://www.cheapnfljerseyslions.com/Graham-Glasgow/ ," Madkour said.
El Chab concurred, nominating number 10 Abbas Ahmad Atwi as his favorite in the Lebanese team. "He is one of my favorite players, one of the good old players so I am hoping he can score tonight," El Chab said.
Both Lebanon and Laos have complex contemporary national identities tempered by periods of war and peace and an inheritance that includes a history rich yet fraught with legacies of colonialism and imperialism.
And while the two countries have not yet found sufficient cause to formalize their diplomatic relations with full-time ambassadors, perhaps due to lack of necessity rather than lack of amity http://www.cheapnfljerseyslions.com/AShawn-Robinson/ , there was nothing but warmth and camaraderie as the opposing teams clashed on a typically balmy mid-June Vientiane night.
With Lebanon having captured the points on this encounter, the two sides are now looking to match-ups with other Group G opponents from South Korea, Kuwait, Myanmar before they meet once again in November.
At that time the 175th-ranked Laos will be attempting to secure an upset in Beirut against the home team which is ranked some 40 spots higher at 135.
So what is the travel advisory for the lucky members of the Laotian team as they play in far-away Beirut?
"The food is really nice and there are many good tourist areas. I hope they will go to the mountains which are very beautiful. Of course, November will be autumn so they had better take their coats with them http://www.cheapnfljerseyslions.com/Michael-Roberts/ ," Madkour advised Laotians who will be going to Lebanon.
El Chab said it will be fun for the Laotian team to visit Lebanon. "Beirut especially is a lot of fun, and it is city that never sleeps," he enthused.
"In Lebanon we have the beach, we have the mountains. You can go out night and you have all the choices," he said.
Speaking of football http://www.cheapnfljerseyslions.com/Jalen-Reeves-Maybin/ , El Chad said both Laos and Lebanon are hoping to secure one of Asia's 4 or 5 highly-coveted spots for its first ever qualification to the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
"I can see a lot of potentials, not for winning the World Cup but getting there (to the finals)," El Chab said.
He said that Lebanon has been doing better and better every four years. "So, I hope to get to see our team playing in the World Cup, something that I have never seen before. Who knows http://www.cheapnfljerseyslions.com/Kenny-Golladay/ , it might even help solve our problems and it might unite everyone in my country," El Chab said.
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