Zen and the Art of Northern League Football (Billingham Town vs. Consett)

After two and a bit years of Covid-scuppered attempts to make it home to the UK, I finally managed it this week. And where better to reacquaint myself than a quick trip to Billingham (or Billog to the initiated) to see some Northern League football?

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Bahrain’s Muharraq head to the AFC Cup Final

While Newcastle can now scour the world for the finest talent thanks to a Saudi takeover, Saudi’s neighbours in Kuwait and Bahrain have to set their sights a wee bit lower.

As the Geordies’ sausage-roll encrusted faces look longingly towards the Mbappes and Haalands of the footballing world (or – more realistically – the Özils and Tarkowskis), Kuwait City can boast not only one-time Boro star Mikel John Obi, but also former Dundee United defender Ryan McGowan. Truly an embarrassment of riches.

Mikel John Obi (source: Sho Pen Online)
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Mikel John Obi Heads to Bahrain for AFC Cup Showdown

The former Boro (and Chelsea and Nigeria) star captains Kuwait City against Muharraq on Wednesday.

Photo: Evening Gazette

In an influx of star power not seen since pop pervert Michael Jackson came to live here, Bahrain has seen some big footballing names visit the island over the last week.

We’ve seen Dutch legend Patrick Kluivert managing Curacao, former AC Milan & Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda managing Cambodia and – perhaps less glamorously – a goalscoring turn from Burnley’s Chris Wood in New Zealand’s first game for two years.

And the slightly-past-their-prime stars keep coming on Wednesday, as former Boro favourite Mikel John Obi (not John Obi Mikel) captains Kuwait City against Muharraq in the AFC Cup Regional Final.

Fully expecting Phil Whelan to turn up for Al Najma next week at this rate. Still no Alexander Hleb though…

Groundhopping in Bahrain #5 – Al Najma Stadium (Bahrain/Saudi Women’s Tournament)

Last year, as part of its ongoing reforms, Saudi Arabia launched its women’s football league, something that wasn’t only a surprise to a westerner like myself, but to many locals. It’s been clear for a while that change was coming to the KSA, but the sheer pace of it has taken many folks by surprise. I left a teaching job in Saudi just five years ago in 2016, but just five years later the country is unrecognisable in some respects, with women now able to drive, travel freely and – pertinent to today’s blog – play sports competitively.

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