ليبيا / Lībīyā / Libya
- Capitals: Tripoli / طرابلس / Ṭarābulus
- Official Languages: Arabic
- Spoken Languages: Libyan Arabic, Berber, Teda
- Nicknames: The Mediterranean Knights
- Association: Libyan Football Federation (LFF) / الاتحاد الليبي لكرة القدم
- FIFA Code: LBY
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best AFCON/CAN Result (Men): Finalists (1982)
- Best AFCON/CAN Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best CHAN Result (Men): WINNERS (2014)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 36th (September 2012)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): n/a
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 187th (July 1997)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): n/a
- Most Capped Player: Ahmed Saad Osman – 108 caps
- Top Scorer: Ali Al-Biski – 48 goals
The State of Libya (دولة ليبيا / Dawlat Lībīyā) is an North African Arab country, situated on the southern coast of the Mediterreanean Sea. Located roughly in the centre of the north of the African continent, it borders Algeria and Tunisia to its west, Niger and Chad to its south, and Egypt and Sudan to its east. The fourth largest country (in terms of size) in Africa gained its independence from Italy in 1947 although Libya didn’t play its first international until 1953 (despite football having been played in the country since 1918) losing 10-2 to neighbours Egypt, and they wouldn’t compete in World Cup qualifying until the 1970 edition.
The golden era of Libyan football (in terms of results) was during the 1980s when the Knights finished in the final of the 1982 African Cup of Nations, a tournament which they also hosted. Finishing top of their group, and defeating Zambia 2-1 in the semi-finals, they would agonisingly lose in the final 7-6 on penalties after a 1-1 stalemate. As of yet, they have yet to qualify for the World Cup – the only member of the UNAF sub-confederation yet to qualify for the major tournament. They came close to qualifying for the 1986 World Cup, reaching the final round of qualifying by overcoming Niger, Sudan and Ghana. Alas in the two-legged tie against Morocco, they lost 1-3 to the Atlas Lions despite winning the second leg 1-0. Alas any further attempts to qualify were squashed throughout the 1980s and 1990s due to political reasons, sanctions, etc.
Libya wouldn’t appear in another major tournament until the 2006 edition of the AFCON but finished bottom in an exceedingly tough group with hosts Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire and Morocco, although achieved a goalless draw with Morocco. They would again qualify for the 2012 edition and perform better whilst still failing to progress to the knockout stage, finishing third in their group despite drawing with eventual champions Zambia and beating Senegal. They have managed to lift some African silverware when they won the 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) by beating Ghana on penalties. They’re still in with a chance of qualifying for the 2021/22 edition of the continental competition despite being bottom of their group, but Libya are just three points from a qualification spot with two games remaining. Alas progression in the 2022 World Cup qualifying looks tougher. Having been ranked as the 23rd best team in Africa in the draw, putting them within ‘Pot 3’, they have been put into a group with Egypt, Gabon and Angola with just the group winner progressing to the next round.
Talking about a side who were the 1982 African Cup of Nations finalists, and have subsequently qualified for the 2006 and 2012 editions but are yet to reach a World Cup, we interviewed the excellent Libyan Football. It is a Twitter account which reports on all things involving Libyan football in the English language. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @FootballLibyan
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
The best player in the history of Libya is between Faouzi Al-Issawi [midfielder who scored 40 goals in 90 appearances for Libya between 1977 and 1985] and Tariq Al-Taib [midfielder who scored 23 goals in 77 appearances between 1998 and 2008], as for the best coach in the history of Libya, it is Mohammed Al-Khumsi [who managed Libya on six separate occasions between 1974 and 2005].
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
I think the player the fans love the most in the national team with all of their affiliations is Ahmed Saad because he played with great passion for the national team.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Libyan national side currently?
The best player in our national team at the moment is Al-Moatasem Ali Al-Musrati, one of the best midfielders in the Portuguese League at this season [a 24 year-old midfielder currently playing for Braga].
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
In the recent period, the national team has not performed well for many reasons of technical instability. At every international break, we see a new coach for the national team in addition to the many problems created by the Libyan Football Federation, but with the lifting of the ban on Libyan stadiums, and the election of the new government of the country, I think a lot of things will change for the better.
Q. Are there any Libyan players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
The league has just returned after a long pause. It is difficult to fully judge the player currently, but there are some players who have shown high technical capabilities so far, and they are Jihad Shaldon (20 years old) with Al-Ittihad SC, Jaafar Jabouda (20 years old) with Al-Ittihad SC , Noureddine Al Qalib (21 years old) with Al-Sweehly SC, Ali Youssef (19 years old) with Al-Ahly Benghazi SC, Taher Ben Amer (21 years old) with Al-Ahly Benghazi SC, and Faiz Al-Shekhy (21 years old ) with Al-Nasr SC.
Q. Looking at Libya’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
Libya, unfortunately, throughout its history, has not been headed by a fair president who cares about sports, and therefore our results are not impressive even though the people love football. However, the best result in the history of the Libyan national team is reaching the 1982 African Nations Cup final and being crowned the CHAN Cup champions in 2014.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
I think the worst period in the history of the national team was the suspension of activity during the 1990s, at the direction of the previous regime.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Libya national team?
Belonging only makes you encourage this national team, even if it is in a bad situation, because, first and foremost, it is your representative team regardless of anything. Unfortunately, sport has been argued over in our country a lot, but we feel that there has been an improvement in the recent period for the Libyan players, as there are many Libyan players who now play outside Libya, unlike in the past.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Certainly yes, there are many songs for the national team, here are a couple of examples:
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
Yes, I have more than one shirt for the national team, but unfortunately, not all of them are with me at the moment, because I am currently in Egypt to study while they are in Libya.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Libyan national team?
I hope to only care about the future of sports in my country, because really there are many talents we have despite the small population, but unfortunately many of them did not get their chance or did not have the right conditions previously.
A massive شكرا جزيلا لك to the superb Libyan Football account for answering our questions on the Mediterranean Knights. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
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