The man who denied India a point in the opener of the ONGC Nehru Cup lived in France for most of his life and has family there. Lary Mehanna, the Lebanon goalkeeper, spent 19 out of his 25 years in Paris until he decided to follow his heart. Mehanna was one when his family migrated following outbreak of the civil war that destroyed the social and economic fabric of the country.
“In 1984, we relocated to Paris in search of business prospects. I don’t remember much of the early days. My father had to start from scratch. I was enrolled at a nearby school where I took a liking for football and never looked back,” Mehanna told HT on Friday.
The goalkeeper went on to join Paris Saint Germain, a first division club, youth team. “I was playing U-16 football when I was recruited by the club.”
But Mehanna’s desire to play for Lebanon was very strong.
“I always wanted to go back but couldn't because of my schooling and peer pressure. My chance came in 2003 when I told my family and landed in Lebanon,” he said.
He joined Al-Ansar, a top flight club in Lebanon. “Though the facilities were appalling as opposed to my Paris club but I tried to adjust… We still face a lot of problems because of the political situation back home.”
But does he regret it: “Playing for my country was my decision and I am proud of it.”