Idlib’s football league resumes activity, nine controls and preparation of facilities

Players of al-Jihad Club and Taftanaz Club during a match in the sixth week of the Football League First Division in Idlib - February 4, 2023 (Free Syrian Football Federation)

Players of al-Jihad Club and Taftanaz Club during a match in the sixth week of the Football League First Division in Idlib - February 4, 2023 (Free Syrian Football Federation)


Enab Baladi – Idlib

The sports sector in the city of Idlib, northwestern Syria, is witnessing attempts to organize it and advance it to higher levels, especially with regard to football competitions, such as creating a suitable environment, rehabilitating sports facilities, and organizing tournaments.

Decisions and controls seek to organize the Football League and inject new blood into the Football Association in an attempt to create a competitive sporting atmosphere and efforts to expand competitions and aspirations to hold matches outside Idlib regions.

Pause and return

First-division football matches will resume in Idlib in May, after they were suspended since the earthquake that struck southern Turkey and four Syrian provinces, on February 6.

And before the competitions stopped following the earthquake that killed 4,500 deaths and more than 8,700 injuries in northwestern Syria and displaced more than 57,000 families, the league witnessed resignations of the top of the pyramid in the Free Sports Federation.

On January 24, the Sports and Youth Directorate of the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) operating in the region issued three separate statements. The first issued a decision to suspend the First Division League until further notice.

The second statement stipulated the acceptance of the resignation of the President of the Football Association, Firas Tate, and the dissolution of the Federation without giving any reasons for the decision.

The third statement also carried the formation of a committee to manage the affairs of the Federation, consisting of three members: Al-Mughira Haj Kaddour, Ramadan al-Ibrahim, and Youssef Kalido.

A member of the Free Football Association, Al-Mughira Haj Kaddour, explained to Enab Baladi that the league competitions will resume as of May 3.

“Special protocol” for football league

Before the First Division Football League whistle sounded in December 2022, the Football Association set nine items to control and organize the game for the 2022-2023 football season, which also included fines estimated in Turkish lira for those who violated them, and they were:

1- Submission of entry to the players half an hour before the match time, and the late fine is 400 Turkish liras.

2- The two teams enter the field with the arbitration staff to start the match, and the fine for default and delay is 400 liras.

3- It is not allowed to sit on the bench except for holders of identification cards, and the fine for not putting the identification plate is 400 Turkish liras.

4- Commitment to full sports clothing (shirt, shorts, leggings, long socks, and it is not allowed to play until the player’s deficiency is completed), and a fine of 400 Turkish liras for violating the dress code.

5- It is not allowed to use the same number for more than one player or to play with the shirt of a player who has been replaced, and the fine for the violation is 400 Turkish liras.

6- No one from the technical and administrative teams is allowed to enter the referees’ dressing room “mishlah” at all, and the fine for the violation is 400 Turkish liras.

7- The administrator of the team that puts up an identification board is allowed to enter the “mishlah” of the referees twice, once when submitting the names and once when obtaining a copy of the match offenses record.

8- It is not allowed to request warm-up balls, and the responsibility for fetching balls rests with the teams, and the fine for the violation is 400 Turkish liras.

9- It is not allowed to request pens or papers by any football club to write the names of the players, and the entire responsibility lies with the team administrators.


The past months witnessed the restoration and preparation of infrastructure and sports facilities in Idlib, despite the difficult conditions, the deteriorating economic and living conditions, and the lack of services in the regions of northern Syria in general and the sports sector in particular.

On November 21, 2022, the Sports and Youth Office of the Salvation Government inaugurated the Idlib Municipal Stadium in the presence of a large audience and held many artistic events after its restoration and rehabilitation, which lasted for several months.

The cost of restoring and rehabilitating the stadium amounted to more than $250000 after the regime forces turned it into a military barracks and destroyed it after they left Idlib, and it was left neglected since the opposition factions took control of Idlib in 2015.

The Idlib Municipal Stadium is one of the largest stadiums in northwestern Syria and includes many halls and a studio for photography, voiceover, and live broadcast of the matches.

Opinions differed about the restoration and rehabilitation of the stadium, including the view that it is not a priority in terms of providing services to the displaced, and some argued there is an urgent need to develop the sports sector and secure its most basic requirements, which are the stadiums.

On February 14, 2022, Enab Baladi discussed through its “What is your problem” program the reality of sports facilities in the city of Idlib, where athletes suffer from a lack of stadiums to follow their training and preparations for the local league in the region. It also reported the complaints of many athletes about the lack of stadiums.

Fans at Idlib Municipal Stadium attend a match between Saraqib Club and Maarat Misrin Club in the First Division Football League - January 7, 2023 (Free Syrian Football Federation)

Fans at Idlib Municipal Stadium attend a match between Saraqib Club and Maarat Misrin Club in the First Division Football League – January 7, 2023 (Free Syrian Football Federation)

Leagues, tickets and hopes of abroad participation

The attendance of fans of different age groups, interactions with match results and outstanding goals on social media platforms, and comparison of some goals in the local league with goals scored in Arab and European leagues left fans with aspirations of competitions at higher levels.

Member of the Free Football Association, Al-Mughira Haj Kaddour, pointed out to Enab Baladi that the Association organizes leagues for all divisions and categories, and the competitions of the first division league are held at the Idlib Municipal Stadium.

Haj Kaddour added that the men’s first division league includes 14 clubs, pointing out that the league of young people and adolescents (born in 2009/2010), of nine clubs, concluded its games last January.

In mid-March, the Federation formed a national team for youngsters born in 2009/2010 in order to advance the age groups, develop the existing “raw materials,” and prepare them to participate abroad, in the event that invitations to participate were received, according to Hajj Kaddour.

According to Hajj Kaddour, the value of the ticket to attend the match inside the Idlib Municipal Stadium is divided into two categories, the first is ten Turkish liras, and the second is five liras. At the end of the league, the value of the tickets is distributed according to percentages among the clubs, the Directorate, and the Football Federation.

With the start of the league, the Directorate of Sports and Youth set the ticket price at 20 Turkish liras, which made it vulnerable to criticism that it was high compared to the living conditions of the residents in the area, and then the directorate reduced it.

Sports in the opposition-controlled areas is witnessing development, especially in terms of sports facilities, after the opening of several training halls and private stadiums. In previous years, the Sports Federation organized tournaments and sponsored many competitions and sporting events.

League clubs suffer from several difficulties, most notably the lack of financial support that has created other organizational problems, such as the inability to secure transportation for clubs or equipment allowance.

The Free Football Association was founded in the summer of 2015, then affiliated with the Syrian Authority for Sports and Youth, which was established in March 2014. It includes a number of clubs, federations, and teams, and its staff is trying to reach the status of a recognized entity to represent Syria internationally.



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