Bahrain women take home futsal gold defeating hosts Kuwait in gripping finale

Sheikha Hussa bint Khalid Al-Khalifa (centre, front row) celebrates Bahrain women's futsal gold medal at 3rd Gulf Games © OCA
Sheikha Hussa bint Khalid Al-Khalifa (centre, front row) celebrates Bahrain women's futsal gold medal at 3rd Gulf Games © OCA

Kuwait City, Kuwait, May 24, 2022: Women’s football in Bahrain received another huge boost from captain Yasmeen Tobellah and her team who won the gold medal in women’s futsal at the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) Games Kuwait 2022 on Monday night, May 24.

They arrived at the 3rd Gulf Games – featuring women athletes for the first time – as winners of the GCC Championship in 2019, and they embellished that title remaining unbeaten in the four-team tournament, crowning it all with an accomplished 2-1 win over Kuwait in the gold medal match. Saudi Arabia won the bronze medal defeating UAE 4-1.

Watching it all happen in the stands was the woman who started football for women in Bahrain, Sheikha Hussa bint Khalid Al Khalifa, who back in 2003, approached the Bahrain Football Association, still in her school uniform, and asked if a women’s national team could be set up.

“This is an important win for us, not only for women’s football in Bahrain, but also as it will add to our gold medal tally at these Games,” smiled Sheikha Hussa, who is now the head of women’s football in the Kingdom.

“The hunger to win was huge in this team. Everybody wanted to win and they have trained with dedication this last year with nothing but the gold medal as their target. I’m so pleased for them,” added Sheikha Hussa.

If Sheikha Hussa didn’t have the gumption to go up to the football powers-that-be in Bahrain 19 years ago and demand for a national team for women, the extraordinary scenes of unalloyed jubilation from Tobellah and company, plus the Bahrain fans in the stands, would have never materialised.

In a recent interview, Sheikha Hussa explaining the genesis of women’s football in Bahrain said: “My sisters and I saw our brothers playing (football), so we copied them and played as well. That’s how it started. Then we played together on our school team. But as graduation drew near, I realised there were no options for girls to continue playing after school. There were no clubs, no national team, nothing.”

Her initiative led to the women’s football growing from one team, 19 years ago, to a dedicated women’s league with seven clubs as well as a senior and youth national teams. Every goal the Bahrain women scores on the field, even in futsal, injects more enthusiasm into the sport at home.

“This is just amazing. We came here to win the gold and we have done it. I’m so happy now I can’t describe it,” said Tobellah.

Alanood Al-Khalifa opened the scoring for Bahrain in the sixth minute, before inspirational skipper Tobellah created the second goal for her team, threading through the defence to send a cross for an unmarked Hessa Alisa to knock the ball in.

Bahrain led 2-0 at the break. A superb defence marshalled by Manar Yakoob and with goalkeeper Zahra Ali pulling off numerous saves kept Bahrain in control until Shrouq Basha Mohammad pulled one back for the hosts with less than a minute on the clock. But Bahrain didn’t panic, and kept possession as time ran out, sparking joyous scenes on court as well as in the stands.

The men's futsal gold medal was won by hosts Kuwait who emerged top of the five-team round-robin competition.