“Nobody Saw It Coming.” – Libya Become World In One City Champions Against All The Odds

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The World in One City 2024 came to its conclusion over the weekend, and it did not disappoint once again when it came to drama, excitement, and entertainment. 

Building a burgeoning reputation as the must-see attraction around Merseyside when it comes to summer football, the unique international tournament boasted new teams this year and once again saw a brand-new nation lift the now coveted trophy. 

Having previously failed to get out of their group in the last two tournaments and having had to go through qualifying rounds this year just to get into the tournament proper, Libya were the worthy winners after overcoming Somali Team and Nigeria on route to an enthralling penalty shootout victor over the much-fancied England.

World In One City – THE FINAL – Libya v England 

A celebration of culture & community, The World in One City was once again awash with vibrance and colour throughout the competition, as well as famous including Bruce Grobbelaar, John Barnes, Tony Bellew, Howard Gayle, and Nikita Parris all in attendance to check out the action.

But it was the Libya fans who were left celebrating long into the night into the streets following a 6-5 penalty triumph that saw huge saves, retaken spot kicks, premature pitch invasions by fans, and calm nerves at the death. 

We spoke to captain and talisman Mussab Benaly after a ‘very late’ night celebrating, who had this to say about his nation’s success and the tournament as a whole…

On The World in One City: “It’s special. A lot of people don’t get to represent their country, but this gives you that feeling. It brings different communities together, great to play against friends, and meet new people.”

Mussab Benaly celebrating Libya’s success. Photo: Ben Orrell-Jones

On whether they believed they could go all the way: “No not at all. I was a little scared going into the qualifiers, then we lost the first game, and everyone wrote us off. Two years ago, I promised our people we’d be back, I have wanted the captaincy for three years and this year we made sure all that happened.” 

On the confidence heading to the penalty shootout: “Hamza Beradi (goalkeeper) was amazing but to be honest we don’t practice them. I’ll be honest I loved it. I got that taste of the attention and got hooked.” 

Hamza Beradi with the WIOC trophy. Photo:Ben Orrell-Jones

On the Libya support and the final: “I loved it. I kept hearing ‘Mussab’s on fire’ every now and then. The spectators and our supporters were brilliant. I felt like we were on top in the final, and had a few big chances which our striker missed…but our players stepped up again in the shootout. I want to say a big thank you to all my team-mates and our coaches this year too. It’s been a real team effort. ” 

On his friendship with England striker Josh Quarless: “Josh is unbelievable. He’s a good friend of mine who I met after I graduated, and he was my manager at work. Since then, we’ve played against each other a few times at semi-pro level. He’s very supportive and throughout the tournament and sent me messages after every game congratulating us and stuff. Top, top man.” 

On his own football career: “I had a bit of time off with travelling but also played for Granby Toxteth Athletic last season. Hopefully, I’ll get back to it next season and step up again. I’ve been getting a lot of recognition through The World in One City and been getting messages from managers, agents, even one from Egypt, which is nice.”

On defending the crown next year: “We’ll see, we’re definitely going to try. For now, we have the bragging rights to enjoy for a year.” 

Photo: Glen O’Connell 

We also spoke to the creator, organiser, and busiest man in Liverpool for the last month, Imad Ali on the success of this year’s competition, the eventual winners and what happens next…

On the tournament: “I probably need a holiday. Every year I say ‘This is the last one’ and vent ‘I quit’ to the team around me, but they always reassure me that everyone is there, and everyone has had a good time, but at the minute it’s probably a bit raw. It’s been another successful one. Every year I say I can’t wait to get to the end and last night when the last social media post was sent, I fell back in the chair and said ‘thank god that’s over.” 

On the champions: “I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure about Libya from the qualifiers. The original manager was stuck in Libya due to a misspelt surname on his passport, then their previous captain told me he could conjure up some lads for a couple of friendlies, then they wiped the floor with Poland 5-0 and I was like ‘oh okay’.

“They were constantly calling me, promising me it’s in good hands, taking the initiative. Then they battered Sudan 7-0 in a qualifier and in preparation for the tournament I kept hearing ‘We played Libya in a friendly, and Libya won’. 

“When the tournament started, they were in with the big boys and lost their first game 2-0 to Guinea Bissau I probably had them down as 15th choice to win. But then they beat Jamaica, who have been powerhouses, then Nigeria, then Somali Team. Even before the final, I was sort of thinking ‘At least you got to the final, almost giving them a pep talk’. 

Imad Ali at the trophy presentation. Photo: Glen O’Connell 

On the final: “I could sense from the warm up I could feel that, even though England were a strong and experienced team, Libya were up for it. ” 

Favourite moments this year: “Two personal ones were playing in the Yemen game against Zimbabwe when it went 3-3 at the death and our striker Amr Badhawi won it with the last kick to seal his hat-trick. Best day of my life, honestly an unreal feeling. 

“Probably the Somali Team v Yemen match as well, the Barca/Real Madrid of The World in One City in terms of interest, packed crown, two of the biggest representatives. The crowd come when Yemen come. This one is a bit of a negative for me personally result-wise, but I know every player in the Somali Team personally and have built relationships with them all, when he scored that free kick I saw that celebration…

“Then it has to be Libya winning the final. Not many people saw it coming perhaps, but Libya have been brilliant all tournament and all worked so hard for each other in every game and fully deserved it. Their celebrations afterwards showed the passion they all have.”

Finally, what next: “The plan is that every year it gets bigger and better.”

Whilst nobody may have predicted the Libyan success (even those tasked with leading Libya), they were worthy winners on the day and indeed throughout the month. From almost not being deemed ‘organised’ or ‘ready’ enough to participate, to conquering a well-oiled England side in the showpiece final.

For The World in One City 2024, the rest is now history, onto the next!

The winners for 2024! Photo: Belal Abdulkarim Alawaj

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