The blazing sun and high temperatures did not affect the conclusions reached in Bahrain's Com-Unity seminar. In fact, a collection of cool heads and hard work facilitated the pathway to a feasible plan aimed at progressing football in Bahrain.
Bahrain's recent football history and their achievement of reaching the AFC/CONCACAF playoff for a slot in the last FIFA World Cup™ is well documented, although they failed to overcome Trinidad & Tobago over two legs for a place in Germany 2006. It seems as though the taste of the dizzy heights on the world football stage has whetted Bahrain's appetite, and they now have their sights set on not just repeating the aforementioned feat, but on going one step further and qualifying for South Africa 2010.
Previous Com-Unity seminars around the world have normally been
organized as three-day affairs. This one in Bahrain was preceded by
a technical inspection and football assessment led by the
internationally renowned coach Roy Hodgson. Not only did the
Bahraini Football Association receive valuable information covering
media, marketing and football relationships through the Com-Unity
seminar, but they also had the luxury of a technical overhaul
providing an insight into the way forward.
The complete report has yet to be drawn up and presented, but the pointers of what needs to be done were apparent: Roy Hodgson and the FIFA development team spent three days visiting the Bahraini league's club's facilities to get a clear view of what is needed to improve. "Some radical changes need to be put into place, they (the BFA) are aware of their problems, and their intentions are good," Hodgson said.
"Bahrain has proved that they have the human resources and
that their players are capable of playing at the highest level, now
they need to improve their infrastructure by upgrading facilities
at schools and clubs and by taking on experts in marketing and
media. The fact that we are here to take a look shows that the BFA
want to do something about it. It is now about everybody pulling
together, not just the BFA, but the government as well with the
creation of new playing areas, pitches, club facilities and the
reorganisation of competitions at all levels."
The Com-Unity seminar conclusions provided an array of ideas on how to improve Bahrain's footballing outlook. Included were new ideas on marketing, media and the revamping of the domestic championship with the creation of a 'new look' Premier League.
Key people involved in the seminar are keen to make things work and were, therefore, delighted with the three days work and the resulting conclusions. Just like many nations in the world of football, the government plays a key role in development and grassroots football in schools. Shaikh Ahmed Bin Hamad Al Khalifa (General Organisation for Youth and Sports representative) was appreciative of Roy Hodgson's efforts. "I thank Roy Hodgson for his ideas and this has provided a valuable opportunity to enrich our sport. We know that together we can make this a reality and achieve an excellent standard of football".
Meanwhile, Dr. Sheikha Yousif Aljeeb, the Director of Sports for
the ministry of education, commented that "our people love
football but we need more help with courses and seminars to train
our school teachers in coaching methods for children and
youngsters. I would like to see more women and girls football and
see women involved with the BFA".
The BFA know that the task ahead will not be easy, as Shaikh Ali Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa (the BFA Vice-President) accepts. "Issues have been raised that we can benefit from thanks to FIFA, the media, clubs and the government ministries. I hope that from the outcome we can improve and look forward to a brighter future".
Only history will tell if this Gulf country's previous achievement, in 2005, can be repeated or even surpassed. Changes are needed to keep Bahrain at the door of FIFA World Cup qualification. In the words of Roy Hodgson: "This has been a successful trip and the dream of Bahrain reaching the World Cup can only be achieved if they work hard and establish themselves as a top team in the Gulf, and then from there go on to be a top team in Asia".
Like many countries around the globe, Bahrain is football-mad and its passion to grow the sport and take it to the next level was evident during these three days of discussions amongst the football family. A line has been drawn in the Bahrain sand the task set is to take a giant step forward and make the dream of FIFA World Cup qualification come true.