The Olympic star beats two young players with his silky skills before playing a perfect pass to another youngster waiting by the goal. The player strikes the ball home and rushes to high five the Olympian. The 100 or so watching children applaud and dream of one day being that player.
It’s a scene that is replicated across the world but it is made more special when you realise that it is taking place in a country which just a short time ago had no hockey scene to speak of.
When Great Britain hockey star Sam Ward first travelled to Bahrain to visit a friend, he was blown away by the friendliness and beauty of the island kingdom, which sits between the Qatar peninsular and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia.
Little did he know that he would shortly be spearheading a move to promote and develop hockey in Bahrain but, with his customary enthusiasm, the striker embraced the challenge and was on hand to support the inaugural outdoor National Day Hockey 5s tournament in Bahrain:
“It was an amazing trip [to the Hockey 5s] and amazing to visit and travel all over Bahrain. I had first visited the country when a friend from Britain had moved out there and invited me to stay. That sparked my interest in the country and so I was pleased to do whatever I could to help develop the game.
“My next aim is to help persuade the Hockey Association to get an artificial pitch meaning we can make the game even bigger. The tournament itself was amazing and it was incredible to see so many teams and nations taking part.”
The Hockey 5s tournament was organised by the Bahrain Hockey Association and took place over two days in December at the St Christopher Senior School. The tournament took place in accordance with FIH regulations and was supported by the UK Embassy and sponsor Aqua Cool.
There were 10 teams taking part in the tournament, with sides from Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia competing alongside teams from Bahrain. While one team from Bahrain – the Young Stars Hockey Club – made the Semi-Finals, it was the international visitors who prevailed, with the Naqi Strikers of Saudi Arabia beating Don Bosco, the challengers from Kuwait, 7-1 in the final.
Running alongside the adult tournament was a junior coaching sessions, where the participants were thrilled to find the Head Coach was none other than Olympian Sam Ward. There was also a junior Hockey 5s tournament, where the skills on show demonstrated that Bahrain has a very bright future in hockey. The eventual winners were the Panthers, who beat the Baboons in the final.
At the end of the event, Salim Elias, President of Bahrain Hockey, thanked all teams for coming to the inaugural Hockey 5s tournament. General Secretary Jude D'Souza presented a special memento to HE Mr Abdulrahman Askar, General Secretary of Bahrain Olympic Committee for his support of Bahrain Hockey and the National Day 5s Tournament.
Speaking after the event, D’Souza said: “Our main motivation for running this event is to introduce a festival which we hope to conduct regularly with local regional and international teams. This has been a pivotal year for Bahrain Hockey as we have just become an official organisation and we are now looking to develop the game at all levels.”
This is yet another project in line with FIH's 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy, especially in consideration of one goal aimed at making the sport more professional across all levels. For more information about the strategy, click here,
For more information about hockey in Bahrain, click here.