Most recently, Bahrain hosted the event again in 2013, meaning that for a few weeks Bahrainis were living and breathing football and thousands of supporters flooded into Bahrain from neighbouring states.
Bahrain in 2003 became the first GCC nation to have a national women’s football team. In 2006 Bahrain’s national team was the winning side at the first ever Arabian women’s football tournament held in Abu Dhabi.
According to most accounts, football first kicked off in Bahrain in around 1919 at the Al-Hidaya al-Khalifiya School in Muharraq, with formal teams starting to emerge from 1928 onwards.
The establishment of the Bahrain Sports Association in 1957 helped create the conditions for professionalization of football and other popular sports like basketball and volleyball. However, football remained the preferred national sport.
Bahrain first became an international footballing nation from 1966 when FIFA approved Bahrain’s participation in the Arab Nations Cup in Baghdad. In the same year, Bahrain became a member of the Union of Arab Football Associations, opening the way to wider participation in regional competitions. Bahrain became an Asian Football Confederation member in 1969.
The first football stadium was built in Muharraq in 1961, but with space to fit only 7,000 spectators, crowding quickly became a problem. This was followed by the construction of the National Stadium in Isa Town, which hosted its first international match in 1968.
Ten teams play in Bahrain’s Premier League. Al-Muharraq SC has been the most successful team in the league, winning once again in the 2014-15 season; followed by the Riffa club which won in the previous season.
Bahrain has tended to rely on its own citizens, brought up through the local football leagues. There has been a lot of debate about how to further develop the domestic sporting skills base, including a recent proposal for Bahrain to have the first fully-privatized national football team in the world – a suggestion for maximizing the expenditure of the funds available.
Even if they struggle to excel on the world stage, Bahrainis are passionate about their football – both playing and supporting.
First for Bahrain
- Bahrain’s first mosque
- First artificial islands
- Female president of UN General Assembly
- First nation to host Gulf Cup
- First mention in historical record
- First modern schools
- First causeway
- First oil well in the region
- First media outlets
- Bahrain’s first lady
- Women in medicine
- International Airshow
- First referendum
- First Grand Prix