Several resources point out that the practice of football in Bahrain started in 1919 where it is considered as the starting point when it emerged in Bahrain.
It all started in Al Hidaya Al Khalifia School in Muharraq (the second capital); two teams were officially formed in 1928 where they were both seen as the stepping stone for improving the game. Those teams were Al Khalaifi team in Muharraq and The National team in Manama, the country’s capital. Both teams met in several encounters including many matches against foreign teams where most were British teams.
Several local teams appeared since then and Al Ahli was formed. Their first match was against Al Basra team in Iraq in 1931. Over time, a committee was formed in 1945 to supervise progress and order of football competitions in Bahrain. The competitions back then included local and foreign teams that represented companies and foreign establishments in Bahrain. The game’s development and base expansion required finding an association that would sponsor it and organize its internal competitions.
Because of that, the formation of the first sports association was announced in 1957, the Bahrain Sports Association. Membership was restricted to local teams only but it also supervised other games like basketball, handball and volleyball until independent associations were eventually formed for each of these games. As a result, the sports association’s responsibility was limited to football and its name was changed to Bahrain Football Association.
In 1961, the first football stadium was established in Muharraq with an ability to accommodate almost 7,000 onlookers. Yet as expected; it was overcrowded with sports fans and football lovers which resulted in the country building the Isa Town stadium. The country’s prince also had a vital and positive role in encouraging sports.
The stadium can seat up to 14,000 onlookers. It held the first international match in 1968 between Bahrain’s national team and England’s amateurs’ team where it ended in the latter’s favor (4-0). Many matches were held since then and one of the most outstanding ones was the first Gulf Cup of Nations tournament in March 1970, an event that was organized under the Bahrain Football Association’s supervision.
Since 1971, the Bahraini football witnessed remarkable improvements locally, in the Gulf Area, Arab world and internationally. Administrative cadres supported it after gaining the ability in supervising the Bahraini football and since then, it had a major role in improving the game through numerous stages and in confronting many obstacles that were overcome in the association’s successive historical periods.
Going back exactly in 1954, a committee was formed in order to supervise Football in the country by Mr. Abdulhameed Al Khonji, who was its president during that period. Mr. Rajab Zayed was the secretary; he was also one of the well-known players and is originally from Zanzibar. Local teams back then consisted of Al Muharraq, Al Ahli, Al Etihad, Al Fardosi, BAPCO, Royal British Air Force, Radio Air International and others.
In December 1957, a letter was sent to Bahrain’s government’s secretary that included names of the governing body which consisted of Shaikh Hamad Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Saif Jabr Almsalim, Hashim Ebrahim Bader, Abdullah Al Shurooqi and Ahmed Ali Al Shomali. After the official approval of the formation, the committee’s work began and its activities were limited to the national team’s participation in the association’s competition only. Most important teams that the association included in its membership at that period were Al Muharraq, Al Ahli, Al Taj, Al Shabab, Al Etihad, Al Asifa, Al Nosoor, Al Nahdha, Jawid, Al Etifaq, Al Hilal, Al Jazeera, Shaheen, Al Watani, Al Wala’a and Al Tarsana. In addition to that, they also supervised the progress of the participating teams in basketball competitions which included Al Muharraq, Al Fardosi, Al Ahli, Al Taj, Shaheen, Al Orooba, Al Hidd, Al Sharq, Al Asifa and others.
The first connection between Bahrain Football Association and FIFA started in 1966 when the Bahraini association was given temporary membership where Bahrain was given the chance to participate in Arab Nations Cup in Baghdad in 1966. Bahrain’s membership was later approved in the meeting that was held in Mexico during the European tournament in 1968 and since then, Bahrain entered the international field of football and started participating in tournaments and national events.
After officially being approved as a FIFA member, Bahrain was later declared an AFC (Asian Football Confederation) member in 1969. As time went by and as the Bahrain Football Association’s activity increased, the association had a bigger role in the continental, Arab and regional levels. In support of its role in the Arabic level, Bahrain Football Association joined the membership of Union of Arab Football Associations in 1966, paving a way to participate in its different activities and competitions.