19 Nov 2022
Redemption tastes sweet for England star Bechara
Five years after final defeat to Les Chanticleers, it's revenge for French-based star
By Josh Graham at Manchester Central
Professional trumpeter Seb Bechara played the sweet tune of revenge as England finally beat France to be crowned wheelchair Rugby League World Cup champions.
Bilingual Bechara has lived in France since the age of nine and was left heartbroken at England’s four-point defeat to Les Chanticleers in the 2017 showpiece but helped conduct their redemption with two try assists in a 28-24 win.
Captain Tom Halliwell was the hero for the hosts as his last-gasp try avenged their two previous final defeats to France and secured their first World Cup title in 14 years in front of a world record Manchester Central crowd of 4,526.
Bechara said: “They are such a good team and some of them are really good friends of mine, so it was really special to get that over them.
“Five years ago it was heartbreaking but we finally have revenge for that. The first year, I took my foot off the gas for a bit, went travelling and then got right back into it.
“I kept thinking of that final and last night I struggled to get to sleep as I was thinking ‘I don’t want to feel like that again’.
“That heartbreak was awful. It gave me a strong drive to perform like that.”
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Bechara, who lost part of his right leg in a motorbike accident a decade ago, admitted the team’s heroic homecoming would change his life.
A combination of BBC coverage and social media traction has helped give the sport a massive boon in the 15 days since the opening double header at the Copper Box.
“It will definitely change my life. The amount of people that came here tonight, and the amount of exposure its had on free-to-air TV has been incredible," he added.
“It has given our sport such momentum and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Bechara has enjoyed a phenomenal week after being crowned the world’s best player by winning the 2022 Golden Boot.
It capped an outstanding year for the 28-year-old who won the Super League Grand Final with Halifax Panthers as well as the French championship and only missed out on adding the Challenge Cup to his collection after losing in the final with Catalans Dragons to Halliwell’s Leeds Rhinos.
He said: “What an amazing week full of lovely rewards that I’m going to enjoy.”
Bechara was blown away by the boisterous support that both sides received, having started out in the sport with just his family watching on.
He added: “I’ve played in front of four or five people when it’s just my family. I’m so thankful for all the supporters that came for both sides, making so much noise and screaming, we really fed from that and it gave us a lot of energy.
“I couldn’t have imagined anything like it, it was incredible.”
Bechara praised the unprecedented platform the wheelchair version of the sport has received alongside the men’s and women’s World Cups and believes his side’s stunning triumph has justified the light shone on the indoor and most accessible version of rugby league.
He explained: “I think it deserves it. This sport is incredible and special and thanks to this platform we’ve had, people are starting to realise how good it is, so it was really important.”
With both the men’s and women’s England sides suffering agonising semi-final losses, Bechara was glad to bring it home for the nation.
“We’ve worked so hard to deserve this platform and we’ve made the most of it,” he said.
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets