Tonight is my first visit to Bahrain’s National Stadium in Riffa, and I’m here to catch the national team against CONCACAF’s Haiti in the first game of a three-way friendly tournament (Jordan make up the ménage, visiting the island next week).
Bahrain have been on a roll under Portuguese Head Coach Hélio Sousa, winning not only their first ever WAFF Championship, but also overcoming regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE and Qatar to win their first Gulf Cup in 2019. These two teams are similarly ranked, so it’ll be interesting to see how this one pans out. I don’t envy Haiti the long journey over here, so hopefully they’ve been put up somewhere nice at least.
Bahrain’s National Stadium was birthed in 1982 (the same year as me), and underwent large scale renovations in 2012. It’s the most recognisable stadium in the country with its huge red and white sail-like roof and impressively angled floodlights. It’s also confusing to a newcomer like myself. I ended up in the media entrance, VIP entrance and away fans end before finally finding the gate I needed. Wandering around aimlessly in this heat is not an ideal way to start an evening.
There are no concessions inside but a few tables set up just outside the finally-located gate. I grab myself some sunflower seeds (a hangover from Hungarian football) and make my way inside. The crowd is sparse to say the least, and this emptiness is made all the more noticeable by the distance from the pitch – it’s one of those running track stadiums that we all love so much. A huge picture of the King faces me from the opposite stand.
The game, once kicked-off, is simply not a contest (those FIFA rankings eh?). Bahrain take the lead after 5 minutes and don’t look back. Within 27 minutes they’re up 5-0 and Haiti look lost. They’re giving away cheap penalties, passing directly to Bahraini strikers and generally just having a pretty grim time of things.
Thankfully the second half is more even (Bahrain seem – understandably – less inclined to press). Haiti manage a consolation in the 54th minute, before Ali Haram completes the scoring for the hosts not long after the hour mark.
Bahrain 6 -1 Haiti
It’s an impressive stadium, but I’m yet to see a real matchday atmosphere here in Bahrain. I’ve got my eye on Muharraq vs. Al Ahli next month as that’s supposed to be the fiercest derby in the country. Hopefully it’ll live up to the billing
Bahrain National Stadium
Concessions: Not really
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes