|Sports enthusiasts spoilt for choice|
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When friends heard that I was heading off to an adventurous new life in Bahrain nine years ago, Formula One was the last thing on their minds. Naturally, people were quick to offer advice on adjusting to life in a very different environment to that of New Zealand. “You won’t be able to take the cats, of course. No one keeps pets in the Gulf,” one authority on the subject told me, having spent a fortnight with friends in Dubai.
“There’s nothing to do there. You can’t even have a nice garden in the desert,” said my neighbour’s mother who knew a pilot working for an Arabian airline.
“Well, sports will be a distant memory for you up in the Middle East. I guess they swim and play a bit of tennis and of course you could ride horses if you’re into controlling wild Arab stallions. But as for cricket and rugby – well, I couldn’t go there!” lamented a keen triathlete who water skis and goes fishing in any spare time left over after watching his kids play mini-rugby at the weekend.
Nine years, one dog, two cats, five rabbits, a hamster, eight birds and 47 fish later, I’m just planning a trip to the garden centre for another load of petunias to brighten up the patio as the lawnmower roars past the cascading bougainvillaea and hibiscus that frame the grass in our palm-dotted garden.
And sports? Our family enjoys regular sailing – competitive and recreational– at the Bahrain Yacht Club; golf and squash (on a rather erratic basis, though keen squash players can join a number of leagues run by sporting clubs). Our daughters also play netball and learn Zen-Do Kickboxing and some of their friends play touch-rugby.
Yes… there is rugby in Bahrain! Bahrain Rugby Club’s grounds in Saar provide excellent grass playing fields for the country’s rugby matches against visiting teams from as far afield as Ireland. There have even been ‘friendlies’ versus teams from, among others, visiting New Zealand Navy ships (something that would surely gladden the heart of my Kiwi friend whose kids, incidentally, could join a mini rugby training team at the Rugby Club with ease).
As it happens, the largely expatriate Bahrain rugby team is one of the strongest sides in the Gulf. Other sports played at the Rugby Club include soccer, netball and circuit training, while the addition in 2001 of a new pool has led to the recent introduction of swim training squads – mixed, ladies’ and junior groups. There’s a wealth of activity for children at the Club, including ‘Swimrite’; a Junior Netball League for girls aged seven to 13; ‘Golf for Kids’ and ‘Play Ball for Kids’ which teaches a range of ball coordination skills for two-to-nine year olds. Call the Club on 17695809 for more information.