In the past, hockey has had a hard time getting noticed in Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
Take a glance at Bahrain and straight off there are a number of sports that the kingdom does not seem particularly suitable for. Without some serious watering, anything that requires a pitch is pretty well out. As is anything that requires a strenuous jog in the heat of the sun, one would have thought. Shaped like a massive bunker, you muse, this island would be perfect for boules.
Which makes Jude D’ Souza, the assistant general secretary of the Bahrain Hockey Association, something of an optimist. Coming into the organising committee at a time when the playing of hockey in Bahrain has been dead for a decade, D’Souza is convinced the kingdom has the talent (and, indeed, the interest) to revive the game and make it something of a national sport.
‘The BHA was founded in the 1960s, though some people claim the game was played here as far back as the 1940s, and had a massive presence up until the mid 1990s. In its hay day the Bahraini teams would get invites from all around the world to play, and a lot of regional teams would come to play in Bahrain.’ But thanks to the turnover of expatriate enthusiasts in the country, the game declined, and up until early last year, hockey was practically extinct.
Then in December last year the organisation got a surprise invite to the Dubai Hockey Club. ‘We fielded one squad and we lost the main championship trophy by half a point.’ Proof, for D’Souza at any rate, that it wouldn’t take much to establish Bahrain as one of the GCC leaders of the sport. ‘We realised that if we had proactive members in the club, then we might just go somewhere.’
Less than a year later and the Bahrain Hockey Association is chaired and run by enthusiastic youngsters who, armed with a small selection of kit and determined to see off the likes of GCC champions Qatar and Oman. ‘The first thing we did was organise a tournament in Bahrain. We certainly didn’t plan for it to be as big as it eventually was. We thought we might attract four or five teams. In the end the event comprised of 10 teams, both from Bahrain and around the region.’ Using the pitches at St Christopher’s School, the inaugural tournament in April was a hit, and not just with the competitors. ‘We wanted to make it not just a tournament but a festival. We got food stalls, we got a children’s play area, and we had a team of dedicated umpires.’
And now, with the heat of the summer waning, the second tournament in recent years is scheduled for November 18 and 19, to be held at the Indian Club. Indeed, so thorough is the organisation, they will be flying in two professional referees from India in order to maintain international standards of refereeing during the tournament.
Those used to field hockey, however, be warned: the tournament on this occasion will be focusing on rink hockey, which is played in a 20m by 40m concrete rink, making the game even more frenetic and exciting. D’Souza explains: ‘Rink hockey is a form of hockey that is unique to Mumbai in India. It is a very fast form of the game because the ball never goes out. It is played five aside with a goalie. This has developed into a phenomenon in Mumbai, and most of the players now play in the super-leagues. You have to have a lot of talent and be fit to do it. It is a very short game, just seven minutes each half.’ Meaning the game should be as exciting for spectators as for the players themselves.
But for anyone who thinks that hockey is going to fade after the tournament should think again. Jude D’Souza and his team have big hopes for the association, and are having a meeting with the Bahrain Olympic Committee in the coming months. ‘We are going big and our ambition is to grow,’ D’Souza promises. And we believe him. With a determination to transform Bahrain into a regional hockey powerhouse and their skill for organising tournaments, it seems the game is coming to a patch of ground near you.
The Bahrain Hockey Association is holding a rink hockey tournament at the Indian Club on November 18 and 19. For more information about joining a team, or for more details about their regular training sessions, contact Jude D’Souza on 39 658 618, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and or find them online on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/bahrainhockeyassociation. No equipment? No problem! The Bahrain Hockey Association will be able to provide all the kit you need to win. All nationalities welcome