by Rocket Gillett
The Australian football frontier has just been extended to Bahrain.
The Bahrain Blues Australian Football Club has been formed and will enter the Middle East AFL competition next season when it starts in October – after Ramadan.
This will bring the number of teams in the Middle East AFL to 7 – from four different countries in the Arabian Gulf region. These are the United Arab Emirates (4 teams), Qatar (1), Oman (1), and now Bahrain.
“It is a great boost for AFL in the region” said newly appointed Middle East AFL Operations Manager, Cameron Hotton, “and while it will create a bye overall it will consolidate the game in the Gulf”.
“We had a terrific start to footy in the region last year and the addition of a new club from another country will test our resources, but all the views from the clubs so far have been highly positive”, added Hotton.
Hotton, the former Collingwood listed player, who also played for East Burwood in the Eastern Distict league and in Mansfield’s 2004 Goulburn Valley league premiership, was a key member of the Dubai Heat team that won the inaugural Middle East AFL flag.
Bahrain is an island state is linked to Saudia Arabia and is across the Gulf of Bahrain from Qatar. It is a major banking and financial services sector centre in the Arab world.
The Bahrain Blues will wear a predominantly navy blue guernsey with some red and white (national colours of Bahrain) and will be based at the Bahrain Rugby Club.
The new club has already secured a major sponsorship from Bahrain Duty Free and the club’s carrier will be Gulf Air; the Abu Dhabi Falcons are sponsored by Etihad Airlines.
Bahrain plan to host a pre-season tournament similar to the Dubai 9’s which is held after the Middle East AFL season. Bahrain made its debut at this year’s Dubai 9’s.
Hotton reports that the Blues have had up to twenty-five players at training prior to the summer break.
Bahrain will also run a regular Auskick program and family days will coincide with home matches in the Middle East AFL. The club also plans to run clinics in the schools.
“All the signs are there for a successful entry into the Middle East AFL competition by Bahrain” said Hotton.