BEIT MILLEIT, Lebanon (AP) — The Lebanese have few things to celebrate these days. The country has been gripped for the past weeks by a spate of suicide bombings, political upheaval and a raging civil war next door in Syria. But at least for few hours Sunday, this tiny Mediterranean country had something to cheer about.
Miguel Layun, playing for Mexico in the World Cup, is of Lebanese origin.
In Beit Milleit, his northern Lebanese ancestral village, dozens of people gathered in front of a giant TV screen to cheer him on.
The 26-year-old player's posters were hung everywhere in this tiny Christian hamlet in the impoverished Akkar region. In the village's main square about 100 people sat in front of the screen.
"Nearly 90 percent of the people here support Mexico because of Miguel," said banker Simon Layun, a second cousin of the Mexican player.
Some munching on snacks and soft drinks, others smoking water pipes, the crowd jumped up and down, danced and cheered every time Mexican players were near the Netherlands goal.
Whenever Layun had the ball the crowd screamed and clapped, breaking into shouts of "Miguel, Miguel!"
Their support was not enough, however. Mexico led until the last few minutes, when the Netherlands scored two quick goals to win.
"I had read about it, and I really appreciate it (the support)," the Mexico defender said after the game. "It's people that I always have in my heart, and they deserve it. I'm very happy to know about this (their support), and it's a shame that today I couldn't bring them more happiness."
Lebanon, with a population of 4.5 million people, has seen waves of emigration over the past century to different parts of the world, mostly to Latin America where there are more people of Lebanese origin than in Lebanon itself.
Brazil has the largest number of Lebanese descendants in the world while in Mexico there is a large community of people of Lebanese origin including billionaire Carlos Slim, who is one of the richest people in the world, and Mexican actress Salma Hayek.
Although most Lebanese are supporters of either Brazil or Germany in the World Cup, many hoped Mexico would win Sunday's match.