Bahrain Rugby Football Club chairman Mehdi Honar is on a mission to form the first full-fledged local ladies netball team and is encouraging the kingdom's sports-loving women to pick up the fast-paced game.
Over the past 25 years, more Arab women have caught onto the expat-dominated ball sport, playing on different teams within the Bahrain Expatriate Netball League including the rugby club, Dilmun club, British Club and Sri Lankan Club.
While Honar is thrilled to see more locals enjoying the sport, he believes it's high time that they had their own squad.
The country director of Tebodin consultants and Engineers, from Saar, said: "Bahrain Rugby Football Club is a sporting community club. Our constitution is based on promoting sports in the country. We strongly believe that with sports we can teach discipline, respect, tolerance and friendship between the people.
"Netball is very popular amongst the expatriate community and there are currently eight teams. Once a year, the senior clubs join forces and form a Bahrain team to compete in the Inter-Gulf Netball Championships usually held in March, which we hosted for the past two years."
The BRFC already has two successful senior ladies netball teams, as well as junior teams participating in competitions such as The Bahrain Expatriate League and The DHL Cup.
Honar said: "It would be great to be able to have an all-Bahraini team competing locally and internationally.
"Also, I started an all-Bahraini girls' netball team to introduce the sport to the local community especially as a lot of them don't know what it is and how it is played."
The 60-minute game is played by two teams of seven players each on a court with raised goal rings at each end. Each team attempts to score goals by passing a ball down the court and shooting it through the opponent's goal ring.
Players are assigned to specific positions that restricts their movement to certain areas of the court. During general play, a player with the ball can hold on to it for only three seconds before shooting for a goal or passing to another player.
Every Sunday, a group of eight Bahraini girls aged 14 and above have been meeting up at the Janabiyah facility to learn the ins-and-outs of the game under the guidance of netball experts Kate Knapton and Sarah Hobday in hopes to build a skilled squad.
Knapton, who used to play for the Dilmun Club now coaches one of the teams and Hobday is still an active member of the rugby club's senior team. The dynamic duo are more than happy to share their netballing wisdom with the Bahraini ladies including long-time player Khulood Sabah and rookie Sameera Rabeea.
From the moment Sabah was introduced to the sport 15 years ago, she was hooked. She started playing first with the Sri Lankan Club and then spent two years with the Dilly team before moving onto the BRFC. Now she has been practicing with the other Bahraini girls and can't wait to see a full team come together.
The 27-year-old from Isa Town, who works at the British School of Bahrain, said: "Although it's not a full team yet, I'm very proud to be a part of it. Netball is totally different from other sports like basketball and football. When I was first introduced to it I loved it because it has its own rules but also combines other sports.
"The expat clubs have welcomed the Bahraini girls with open arms and are very encouraging to what we want to do."
Rabeea, 38, is also excited about being part of the team. The mother-of-five from Muharraq, who works at Tebodin as a quality safety coordinator, said: "When I was younger, I used to love playing basketball but was never part of a team. When Mr Honar approached me to ask if I knew any Bahraini girls that would love to play netball, I said 'why not me?' I have long dreamt of being part of a team and now that my children are older I have the time to play. To be a part of the first Bahraini team is truly something special."
Rabeea also encouraged her daughter Al Anood, 14, a student at the Indian School Bahrain and her sister Hessa, 35, who works at the Ministry of Education to join the squad.
Bahrain Expatriate Netball League chairman Kate Brand, who is a huge advocate of getting girls involved in sports, believes the more the merrier.
She said: "This is brilliant. The more teams we can get in the league the better. It's also wonderful to see more young girls involved in the sport. I really think there should be more sports geared for girls."
Those interested in joining the team can contact BRFC on 17695809 or email email@example.com
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