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Heather Heffernan, a fifth grade teacher at the Bahrain School, interacts with her students in September of 2019. The school was closed Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, by order of the king following a big win by the Bahrain national soccer team.

Heather Heffernan, a fifth grade teacher at the Bahrain School, interacts with her students in September of 2019. The school was closed Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, by order of the king following a big win by the Bahrain national soccer team. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)

Heather Heffernan, a fifth grade teacher at the Bahrain School, interacts with her students in September of 2019. The school was closed Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, by order of the king following a big win by the Bahrain national soccer team.

Heather Heffernan, a fifth grade teacher at the Bahrain School, interacts with her students in September of 2019. The school was closed Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, by order of the king following a big win by the Bahrain national soccer team. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)

A row of backpacks hang in the hallway of the Bahrain School on September 5, 2019. The school was closed Monday Dec. 9, 2019, by order of the king following a big win by the Bahrain national soccer team.

A row of backpacks hang in the hallway of the Bahrain School on September 5, 2019. The school was closed Monday Dec. 9, 2019, by order of the king following a big win by the Bahrain national soccer team. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)

The Bahrain DODEA school said it will honor the order of the island nation's king and close on Monday Dec. 9, 2019, following a big win by the Bahrain national soccer team.

The Bahrain DODEA school said it will honor the order of the island nation's king and close on Monday Dec. 9, 2019, following a big win by the Bahrain national soccer team. (Joshua Karsten/Stars and Stripes)

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa declared Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, a holiday after the national soccer team of the island nation won the Gulf Football Cup for the first time ever.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa declared Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, a holiday after the national soccer team of the island nation won the Gulf Football Cup for the first time ever. (Courtesy BNA)

By order of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, ministries, government departments and public establishments were closed, Monday, to mark Bahrain's soccer team winning the 24th Gulf Football Cup.

By order of King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, ministries, government departments and public establishments were closed, Monday, to mark Bahrain's soccer team winning the 24th Gulf Football Cup. (Courtesy of Bahrain News Agency)

MANAMA, Bahrain — Students at the Defense Department school in Bahrain have a reason to love soccer after the king of the small island nation declared Monday a holiday to celebrate the national team’s first-ever regional championships title.

King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa declared Monday a day off for all federal offices and schools after Bahrain’s national football team clinched the Arabian Gulf Cup title Sunday, defeating neighboring Saudi Arabia.

The Bahrain School, run by the Department of Defense Education Activity on the U.S. Navy base there, operates independently but decided to “honor the decree from the king,” principal Penelope Miller-Smith said.

“Bahrain School is proud to celebrate alongside our Bahraini students, families and community members regarding last night’s monumental win of the Arabian Gulf Cup,” Miller-Smith said in a statement.

The day off isn’t the first popular decision among many students in Bahrain.

In September, the Bahrain School stopped giving homework, except reading assignments, following an announcement by the Bahrain Education Ministry decision that homework was to be “replaced by daily hands-on exercises implemented by students under teachers’ supervision inside the classroom.” The base school, which does include some Bahraini students, said it made the decision separately from the Education Ministry.

Late-night emails, phone and social media messages advised parents the school would honor the king’s soccer celebration wish and close for the day. On-base day care and teen centers remained open but a separate message announced that a holiday choir performance by elementary school students was canceled.

“Good thing my husband and I were still awake when it happened,” said Grace Wade, the mother of a first grader. “I am sure a lot of parents were not aware of it until they woke up this morning.”

Another elementary school mom, Carmen Sunderland, compared the unscheduled day off to a snow day back home: kids love them, while for parents, they can pose logistical problems.

“You always have to be ready,” she said.

Mohamed Al Rumaihi scored the winning goal for Bahrain in the 1-0 match, which was played in the Qatari capital, Doha.

karsten.joshua@stripes.com Twitter: @joshua_karsten

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