07/10/2006, 00.00
ASIA – FIFA WORLD CUP
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From the Philippines to Lebanon, celebrations for world champion Italy

"Just as they did in 1982, the Azzurri were able to leave match fixing scandals at home to win", says al-Jazeera. Lebanon's 'L'Orient Le Jour' writes that "the setting is cruel for the French but so it was for the Italians in the 2000 Euro Cup final".

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Italy's FIFA World Cup win was celebrated across Asia and widely covered by the continent's media. "Just as they did in 1982, the Azzurri were able to leave match fixing scandals at home to win the ultimate prize in football", al-Jazeera wrote as Gulfnews told its readers to write in their comments about the players asking "[h]ow will you cope without World Cup fever?" and Italy fans celebrated in the streets of Manila (see photo).

In Hong Kong a survey showed that 21 per cent of respondents were more stressed out than usual, not because of the matches but because betting. Another 11 per cent said that seeing the best players relaxed them; 38 per cent said they were happy NOT to have bet on the game, whilst 18 per cent said that the World Cup helped them maintain good family relations since they could watch together.

In Lebanon, especially in Christian towns, many welcomed Italy's victory with firework displays, street parades and chants like "Italy's victory is ours". But sport in the land of the cedar tree is highly political. Pro-Syrian Christians and Muslims backed Italy because of French President Jacques Chirac's pro-Lebanese ruling parties policy. The World Cup final was seen as a challenge to Chirac.

General Michel Aoun, former minister Suleiman Frangie, Hezbollah leaders and National Assembly Speaker and Amal leader Nabih Berri criticised Chirac's government.

Their support for Italy was a reflection of their opposition to French policy in Lebanon and Chirac's support for the ruling parliamentary coalition led by Saad Hariri, son of murdered former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and his allies Samir Geagea and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

The front page in today's Al Dyar daily, which is close to current President Émile Lahoud and General Aoun, carried the title: "Italy, World Champion, defeats France and its policy".

Papers belonging instead to the Hariri group, especially Al-Moustaqbal (the Future) founded by the late former Prime Minister, avoided making any noteworthy comments about the Italian victory or printing any picture of the squadra azzurra.

An Nahar also failed to publish any significant commentaries about Italy's victory. It focused solely on the sad end of Algerian-French player Zinedine Zidane's career from a sport point of view.

Finally, L'Orient Le Jour wrote that Italy avenged its defeats in the 1998 World Cup quarter final and the 2000 Euro Cup.

"The setting is cruel for the French but so it was for the Italians in the 2000 European Cup final," it wrote.

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