Three events that lead to the decline of our National Football Team, and now..
On the evening on Tuesday the 3RD of August 2004, what was meant to be the defining moment in Bahrain’s Football history sadly turned out to be the start of its rapid decline into obscurity.
It was the semi-final match of the 2004 Asian Football Cup held in China and we were one victory away from reaching the final, something that we had never ever achieved, and I believe had we made it through we would have won it without a doubt.
The last dying seconds of the match brought our downfall, we had just come back from a 2 – 1 deficit and were leading 3 – 2, with a few minutes of remaining. It looked very good for us as we were one man up; what happened next can give sports fans nightmares, we just imploded. The defences just began to crumble, the players began to slag and tire and did not return back onto their assigned players, we were unable to clear the football from our half and two critical defensive errors led to Japan tying the match at 3 – 3 and then leading 4 – 3 in the added extra time. When the final whistle blew and the dust settled, our national team fighting spirits receded with the lost opportunity, and it has yet to return.
Following this lacklustre end of game performance, the National team slowly declined into obscurity. Don’t get me wrong we still had, and continue to have good players, but that team in my mind, was the best group of BAHRAINI players that could have achieved a lot; had they won the Asian Cup final, it could have then taken the Gulf Cup in 2004, and also have reached the 2006 World Cup finals much earlier rather than having to play the additional matches, up to our eventual loss to T&T.
Had the former occurred, it would have changed Bahrain’s football history for the better and put us on the ASIAN & GCC Footballing MAP.
The continued decline was evident in the 2004, 17TH GCC Gulf cup which was hosted by the State of Qatar, the eventual winners. We barely go through to the second round after a fiercely fought match against Saudia Arabia, but we were then bettered by Oman, an up and coming team. We had the professional players but they had the better ones, who played with heart and determination.
The pinnacle of our demise was the eventual one nil loss to Trinidad and Tobego on 16 November 2005 in the very last qualifications play-off match that would have taken us to the 2006 world cup; we were one player short from reaching the World Cup for the first time in our Country’s history. We lost 1 – 0 in that match and 2 – 1 on aggregate. Mohamed Salmeen had been suspended in the first leg of the qualifying play-off match for a second book able offence; his absence affected us and reduced our firing power and ball movement in the middle of the field; yet another great achievement that was not realised.
What went wrong?
Well for one, some of the players got too full of themselves; they turned professional playing in the regional Leagues and lost sight of the hard work, sweat, defeminisation and the fighting spirit (playing till the whistle is blown) that had gotten them there. Their attitudes changed, they became more like cry babies and hot heads rather than professionals, and dependable members of a National team. Each player was now playing defensively trying not to get hurt, so as not to forfeiting their PAID professional careers.
For another, our best scorer, Alah Hubail got injured and has now lost his finishing touch. The fact is we do not have alternative players, there is no pool of scorers from which we can pick and choose. The players on the National team don’t shoot the ball with any accuracy; they just kick and hope the ball goes to wards the goal. Scorers have to have the touch, and take the opportunities count as they come, in cases of minimal chances playing against tough teams, a superstar takes over and creates his own chances; again, we lack the presence of a player of that calibre.
WHY IS THAT?
Consider how much the other GCC states spend on their football teams or their football federation initiatives to create a pool of players from which they can pick when needed.
We do not have a forward minded presence in our Football Federation, if we did, three would be visits by coaches to the public & private schools where the young players would be taught the basics of football, where the sports instructors in those schools would be put under a vigorous training regime that would improve their knowledge and thereby lead to better training of the students.
Additionally, the exceptional players selected based on their superior skills could then be taken and trained under the wings of professional coaches.
This would start a chain reaction that would positively impacted the younger players and aspired them to play at much higher levels, this may also convince the Bahrain Football Federation to spend more on them and send the exceptional ones to professional Football training schools for further improvement and growth. Sadly that is not to be…
Alas, today was day one of the 2007 Asian CUP; and we just lost 2 – 1 to Indonesia.
Need I say more………