Seldom in sport do you see a relatively unknown visiting team sharing a considerable chunk of the fanfare with the hosts.
In Bahrain at the Elite Grande Hotel in Manama, the Indian Women’s national team got such a rare opportunity although being a fairly alien nation to their opponents over two International Friendlies ahead of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers in Palestine from May 21.
Heads turned when National Coach Anadi Barua was asked about his team’s preparation at the Dinner Table on the eve of the first Friendly against the Islanders.
“Aur ache se hua training, sab kuch…jeet rahe hai na kaal? (Hope the training tonight went fine…and we are winning on the morrow.),” the Headwaiter at the restaurant in the Hotel both Bahrain and India are putting up, enthusiastically enquired.
Barua, on his way to help himself from the buffet platter, paused, and then turned around. “You speak Hindi! Which part of India are you from?” he questioned.
“Noida,” replied the Headwaiter.
Soon the assistant Front Office Manager intervened, all smiles.
“Let me explain this,” he quipped.
“A large portion of the people who work in this hotel have origins or are from your part of the World. We were thrilled at the prospect of India playing here in Bahrain. Please feel at home sir, and speak to us in Hindi if you wish!” he added introducing himself, Jigar Soni hailing from Mumbai.
Some of the Bahrain players, dining along with the Indian Women in the opposite table looked squarely bemused.
“This is amazing. I don’t think this happens too often where the away side gets almost equal amount of limelight like the home team. This is worth sharing,” said National Team striker Jyoti Ann Burrett while sharing the novel incident with her friends via a Smart Phone application.
After finishing conversations with the Indian contingent of the Hotel staff, Barua reflected: “Bahrain has been a happy hunting ground for us. We beat them 2-1 in a three-match series in 2011. Now it seems we will carry sweet off field memories as well.”
Bahrain Head Coach Maher Abu Hantash’s admission on his way to his Hotel Room post dinner was the perfect icing on the cake.
“I have many relatives of mine whose children are admitted to The Indian School in Bahrain. You will see the School on your way to the Stadium (Bahrain National Stadium). I have a few Indian friends here as well. Bahrain has a good percentage of Indian population. Welcome to our Kingdom, feel at home!”
The Bahrain v India maatch starts 20.30 IST / 17.00 CET / 16.00 GMT.
(AIFF Press Release)