Al Ahli Stadium (Isa Town vs. Bahrain SC)
By Daniel Cochran
Every football stadium should have a pumpkin patch. By that metric, Al Ahli are onto a winner.
After no time at all, the end of my Bahrain groundhopping adventure is nigh. I’ll still be going to games but I’m rapidly running out of new stadiums to visit. Luckily my new job “over the border” starts soon, so I’ll be heading to some of the grounds in the Eastern Province of Saudi (although I’ve just missed the chance to see former Boro players Brad Jones and Rhys Williams, who’ve recently returned to Australia).
Tonight’s game is Isa Town Club – who have no Wikipedia page and seemingly no silverware in their history – versus Bahrain Club: who’ve won the national championship 5 times in their 86 year history. In the confusing spirit of Bahraini league football, we’re at Al Ahli Stadium, which is the home ground of neither of these teams. I sometimes think the Bahrain FA just throw a dart at a map.
It’s not often you get a nice stadium walk up in Bahrain, so it’s lovely to see a little vegetable patch under one of the floodlights, complete with tomatoes and pumpkins. Whoever Al Ahli’s gardener is, they should get some sort of sustainability award. In England a gourd of this heft would have been hoyed at the away team bus long ago.
The stadium itself is an odd one. The seats are what can only be described as “very yellow”, while those at each end has been removed completely (a refurb? cost cutting? demolition? I’ve really no idea). Opposite the main stand is the back end of a row of shops with hundreds of air conditioning units, giving the impression of an away crowd of clanking, low budget 1970s robots à la Box from Logan’s Run.
The game itself is terrible. Both teams aim to outdo each other in comically mistimed lunges, embarrassing playacting and agricultural hoofs upfield. There are plenty of goals from Bahrain Club, but they generally result from Isa Town’s proclivity towards the “hopefully dangled leg” school of defending.
The only highlight is the one Isa Town fan who seems to carry their entire support on his shoulders. His determination to find out the name of the players he’s heckling is both gentlemanly and antagonizing (“Hey! Number 9! I don’t know your name. What’s your name? I need to know your name!” before reverting to Arabic for the accompanying insults). He seems to be the designated banterer; I’m sure I caught a few of the other fans suggesting one-liners for him to bellow.
Isa Town 1-4 Bahrain SC
Although this was possibly the worst game I’ve seen here so far (the one match I saw in the Amateur League was of a higher quality), the discovery of a vegetable patch made this journey towards Bahraini groundhopping completion worthwhile.
Al Ahli Stadium
Capacity: Previously 5000 (Wiki says 10,000: I’m calling bullshit on that one), but a lot of seats have been removed.
Wheelchair Accessible: Unsure now the other stands have been demolished.