Groundhopping in Bahrain #6 – 4 Countries, 3 Stadiums, 2 Matches, 1 Night. (0 Fans)

New Zealand played their first international for nearly two years last night. Two years! Can you imagine? I forget how to do my job if I’m off work for a fortnight.

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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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Groundhopping in Bahrain #4 – Muharraq Stadium (Muharraq vs. Al Ahed – AFC Cup)

With my first forays into Bahraini football finding nought but low attendances, single-stand grounds and a distinct lack of visible fan culture, I was looking forward to visiting Muharraq, Bahrain’s footballing powerhouse and by far their most supported club.

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Groundhopping in Bahrain #3 – Riffa Sports Club (Al Khaldiya vs. Isa Town)

Alexander Hleb is not here. The ex-Arsenal Belorussian has apparently signed for the home team but after a social media unveiling of sorts a few months back, it’s been radio silence. I’m getting the impression that he was just “signed” to come over for a meet and greet, but it’s hard to tell from the posts on Al Khaldiya’s Instagram. Either way, I’m getting Asprilla at Darlington vibes from this one.

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Groundhopping in Bahrain #2 – National Stadium (Bahrain vs. Haiti)

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).

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Groundhopping in Bahrain #1 – Hamad Town (Al Ittifaq vs. Tadamun Buri)

The first place on my Bahraini groundhopping tour is Hamad Town Stadium, home of – I think – both of today’s teams. It’s often hard to work out who plays where in Bahrain because a lot of the games default to the National Stadium. I’m not sure why, but I’ll no doubt find out. It can’t be for logistical reasons as you can travel between the two furthest grounds in 25 minutes.

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Two Seas, 8 Stadiums: Groundhopping in Bahrain

Welcome to a shift in tone for Sub Story. Budapest’s wonderful old stadiums are no more, my Vasas season card sits idle in my wallet, and I’ve said goodbye to my erstwhile matchday companions Kev and Mike. Instead we (metaphorically) and I (literally) move to Bahrain – a name which means Two Seas. The country is a small island in the Gulf, located between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

I’ve just moved back here, and am primed to do some more groundhopping, but unfortunately information in English on Bahraini club football is thin on the ground – hopefully I’ll be able to learn and share a few things on my travels so that visiting fans can step into the world of Bahraini football more easily. Let’s take a look at what’s in store.

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