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Bahrain Football Association (Soccer)
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Most sport resources point out that the practice of football in Bahrain started since 1919 where it is considered as the starting point when it emerged in Bahrain.
It all started in Al Hidaya Al Khalifia School in Muharraq (the second capital) then two teams were formed nationally in 1982 where they were both seen as the stepping stone for improving the game. Those teams were Al Khalaifi team in Muharraq and The National team in Manama, the country’s capital. Both teams met in several encounters including many matches against foreign teams where most of them were British teams.
Several local teams appeared since then and Al Ahli was formed where its first match was against Al Basra team in Iraq in 1931. Over time, a committee was formed in 1945 to supervise progress and order of football competitions in Bahrain. The competitions back then included local and foreign teams that represent companies and foreign establishments in Bahrain. The game’s evolution and base expansion required finding an association that would sponsor this game and organize its internal competitions.
Because of that, the formation of the first sports association was announced in 1957 where it was known as (Bahrain Sports Association). Membership was restricted to local teams only but its specializations extended at that moment to supervising some other games like basketball, handball and volleyball until independent associations were formed for each of these games. As a result, the sports association’s responsibility was limited to football and its name was changed to (Bahrain Football Association).
In 1961, the first football stadium in Muharraq city was opened. It could accommodate almost 7,000 onlookers. Yet as expected; it was overcrowded with sports fans and football lovers which resulted in the country building up the huge Isa Town stadium. The country’s prince also had a vital and positive role in encouraging sports.
The field can seat up to 14,000 onlookers. It held the first international match in 1968 between Bahrain National Team and England’s Amateurs team where it ended in their favor (4-0). Many matches were held since then and one of the most outstanding ones was the first Gulf Cup of Nations tournament which was held in March 1970 and that was also organized under Bahrain Football Association’s supervision. (It is worth pointing out that this championship was preceded by a huge match that the Bahraini team played against Kuwait’s team where the Bahraini team was also preparing for the first Gulf Cup of Nation.)
Since 1971 (after the first Gulf Cup of Nation tournament) the Bahraini football witnessed remarkable massive improvements locally, in the Gulf Area, Arab world and internationally. Administrative cadres supported it after gaining the ability in supervising the Bahraini football and since then, it had a major role in improving the game through numerous stages and in confronting many obstacles that were overcome in the association’s successive historical periods.
Going back exactly in 1954, a committee was formed in order to supervise Football in the country by Mr. Abdulhameed Al Khonji who was its president during that period. Mr. Rajab Zayed was the secretary; he was also one of the well-known players and is originally from Zanzibar. Local teams back then consisted of Al Muharraq, Al Ahli, Al Etihad, Al Fardosi, BAPCO, Royal British Air Force, Radio Air International and others.
In December 1957, a letter was sent to Bahrain’s government’s secretary that included names of the Governing Body which consisted of Shaikh Hamad Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Saif Jabr Almsalim, Hashim Ebrahim Bader, Abdullah Al Shurooqi and Ahmed Ali Al Shomali. After the official approval of the formation, the committee’s work began and its activities were limited to the national team’s participation in this association’s competition only. Most important teams that the association included in its membership at that period were Al Muharraq, Al Ahli, Al Taj, Al Shabab, Al Etihad, Al Asifa, Al Nosoor, Al Nahdha, Jawid, Al Etifaq, Al Hilal, Al Jazeera, Shaheen, Al Watani, Al Wala’a and Al Tarsana. In addition to that, they also supervised the progress of the participating teams in basketball competitions which included Al Muharraq, Al Fardosi, Al Ahli, Al Taj, Shaheen, Al Orooba, Al Hidd, Al Sharq, Al Asifa and others.
Since this association was formed, football started to find its way towards good organizing as mentioned earlier. As noted, football was practiced in Bahrain due to commercial and economical exchanges between the region’s countries and Asian countries before petroleum was discovered.
The first connection between Bahrain Football Association and International Football Association started in 1966 when Bahrain Association was given temporary membership in the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) where based on it, Bahrain was given the chance to participate in Arab Nations Cup In Baghdad in 1966. Bahrain’s membership was approved in the meeting that was held in Mexico during the European tournament in 1968 and since then, Bahrain entered the international field of football and started participating in tournaments and national events.
Also in 1969, after Bahrain managed to become a member in the FIFA , it joined the Asian Football Association and became a member of it. As time went by and as the Bahrain Football Association’s activity increased, the association had a bigger role in the continental, Arabic and regional levels. In support of its role in the Arabic level, Bahrain Football Association joined the membership of Union of Arab Football Associations in 1966 and it also participated in its different activities and competitions.