All you need to know about ‘the original beautiful game’ by James Kennedy, chairman of the Arabian Celts

Said to combine the suspense of football, the skills and scoring of basketball, the impact of rugby and the speed of some of the world’s fastest sports, Gaelic football has been called ‘the original beautiful game’.

There’ll be some great games played at Bahrain Rugby Club over the St Patrick’s Day weekend and, for the uninitiated, it can be more than a little confusing so we thought a quick rundown of what exactly the game’s about was in order.

Known in the Irish language as Peil Ghaelach, peil or caid for short, Gaelic is Ireland’s most popular spectator sport and, not surprisingly with the spread of the Irish diaspora, it’s been exported all over the world.

Bahrain’s no exception with our very own Arabian Celts, a club founded in 2008 with the amalgamation of the former Bahrain Irish and Naomh Adbullah Dhahran from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, who have gone on to win trophies before them and behind them with at least a couple of players making it into the All Asia All Star Team – the sport’s own hall of fame. The Arabian Celts were also voted All Asia Club of the Year in 2011.

The game is played between two teams of 15 and the objective is to score points by passing the ball through the other team’s goals, a set of two upright posts separated by a crossbar 2.5 metres above the ground.

And now for the fun part, players advance the football through a combination of carrying, bouncing, kicking, hand-passing and soloing (dropping the ball and then toe-kicking it upward into the hands). All the different ways of moving the ball make for a fast and furious game – it’s not as violent as rugby but certainly a good fun watch.

Two types of scores are possible: points and goals. A point is awarded for kicking or hand-passing the ball over the crossbar, signalled by the umpire raising a white flag. A goal is awarded for kicking the ball under the crossbar into the net, signalled by the umpire raising a green flag.

Positions in Gaelic are similar to those in other football comprising one goalkeeper, six backs, two midfielders and six forwards, with a variable number of substitutes.

Played under the auspices of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Gaelic is one of the few remaining fully amateur sports in the world with players, coaches and managers prohibited from receiving any form of payment.

And also under GAA rules it’s an all-male sport. However there is a Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association. The Bahrain club has both women’s and men’s teams and at the annual Bahrain Gaelic Games, which the Arabian Celts host each November, you’ll also see mixed matches.

And we believe in catching prospective future stars young with a juvenile section, which was set up in 2011, running under eights, under tens, under 12s and under 14s programmes for both boys and girls.

Both men’s and ladies’ teams will be competing in the Gulf Gaelic Games in Dubai on March 22 and at the Middle East League Championship Finals in Abu Dhabi on April 19.

Currently we are running our own internal league, the Champions League, every Tuesday at 7pm until the end of April. If you are interested in seeing the game played or would like to participate come along on Tuesday night and join the guest list and we will allocate you to a team on the night.

And the best bit about Gaelic and the Arabian Celts – you don’t have to be Irish to take part. Over 15 nationalities have played Gaelic football with the Arabian Celts and our motto is ‘inclusive not exclusive’.
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Training schedule
Sunday 7-9pm - conditioning & fitness (mixed)
Tuesday 6.30-8pm - ball skills, drills and games (ladies)
Tuesday 7.30-9pm - ball skills, drills and games (men)
Friday - game practice (times vary, check FB or email)
All training takes place at Bahrain Rugby Club