Pearl Divers, Ravens and Cranes

Bahrain vs. Uganda (Men’s International Friendly), Ravens vs. Black Castle (Women’s League)

Ravens FC of Bahrain

By Daniel Cochran

The Bahrain Women’s League is approaching its finale; Ravens FC firmly in the driving seat with maximum points. Ravens are perhaps the only team in the world whose play in teal and I’m here for it. I’d meant to attend to more of their games this year after watching them in the Saudi-Bahrain Tournament in October, and finally got over to the BFA to watch them in action against the ominously-named Black Castle on Wednesday.

The teams themselves do a great job at promoting the matches and themselves, but they’re not helped by the fact that their league comes under the umbrella of the Youth Development League. You actually have to navigate through the Boys Under-Nine results on the website to find the women’s fixtures, which is pretty disrespectful. If Bahrain is serious about improving the women’s game, they could start by promoting it.

The match itself is a hard-fought one. Ravens’ Rama Salem has a great free-kick saved in the first half before jinking past a defender and rattling the post in the second, but it’s Black Castle who nick the points after taking advantage of a mix-up in the Ravens’ defence. Their skillful number 9 (if anyone knows her name please let me know) is a constant threat throughout the game and definitely one to watch.

Ravens 0-1 Black Castle

There’s a great atmosphere at these matches. Hopefully a better supported and promoted league is around the corner. Ravens still top and on course for their first league title, but the gap is closing.

The following day I’m back at the National Stadium for Bahrain vs. Uganda in a men’s friendly international. There’s a sizeable Ugandan community over here, and they put the home fans to shame with a vociferous turnout of over 100 (in fairness to the Bahrainis, there are cup games on tonight as well). A low turnout for an international match, but far better than the 3 people that turned up to the last one I went to here.

It’s a great start for the Ugandan Cranes too. Milton Karisa sends the away fans wild in the 9th minute with a lovely angled header to make it 1-0 Uganda.

After that it all starts to unravel. Ugandan keeper Benjamin Ochan – who’s already been booked – gets a second yellow for bringing down Al Khatal, and Madhi Al Jabar slots home the resulting penalty. The ref was clearly trying to keep 22 men on the pitch (Ochan’s first booking would’ve been a red in a competitive match), but there was no other choice.

With Uganda down to ten men, the second half is fairly straightforward for the hosts. Al Khatal and Budaiya’s Abdullah Al Hashash add further goals to make it 3-1 to Bahrain. It’s perhaps not the test they wanted, but they’ll take the win.

“An Orient Tour” – Neuchâtel Xamax in Bahrain & Saudi Arabia

First off – the title. Not my words, the words of Swiss newspaper L’Express on February 11th, 1976. I imagine this is as outdated in Swiss French as they are in English.

Photo from BNA Zaman
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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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