The NRL’s Lebanese stars will band together to help raise funds and awareness for their country as last week’s Beirut blast hit close to home.
Several players had “Lebanon” emblazoned across their wrist at the weekend, including those with no connection to the country other than wanting to offer their support.
Josh Mansour has spent the week calling family and revealed his cousin had only driven out of the Beirut area just half hour before the explosion that killed at least 158 people.
The Penrith winger took to the field with a Lebanon flag just minutes after his side’s win over Canberra, with an Islamic moon and crucifix drawn displayed alongside “Lebanon” on his strapping.
“The country is going through so much,” Mansour said.
“Not only with this explosion but through COVID, an economic crisis and the government.
“They are looking at a revolution now as well. Things have been piling up. It’s the last thing the country needs.
“One of my cousins lives in Beirut but he left 30 minutes before the explosion to visit family.
“The one thing about the Lebanese community, everyone lives in harmony and I wanted to represent that tonight.”
The NRL has a proud connection with the Lebanese community, with Hazem El Masri, Benny Elias and Robbie Farah among the big names.
Mansour said he and several current Lebanese NRL players had spoken since the explosion.
He also made a point to contact Adam Doueihi after Saturday night, with the Wests Tigers fullback in tears following his side’s 44-4 flogging at the hands of Newcastle.
Players have been amazed by the support offered across the game, as well as by the league with a minute’s silence before each match.
Ideally, they would like to organise something to raise donations, but with COVID restrictions that is increasingly difficult.
“I know no one (from the NRL) has been directly affected in terms of family members. Which is good, but it’s still hard to see,” Mansour said.
“I have been to Lebanon once and it’s just such a strong connection
“It’s difficult. I want to (organise something) but with COVID and stuff I don’t know how it’s going to work.
“I am donating clothes and food. I can’t go down myself but hopefully my wife will be able to drop stuff off.
“I’m donating money to the Lebanese Red Cross and clothes through Dessert Box. They’re getting together a container to get to Lebanon.”