Bahrain School celebrates 50 years, hosts DODEA opponent for first time in school history
By JOSHUA KARSTEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 18, 2019
BAHRAIN – The Bahrain School Falcons wrapped up a homecoming spirit week as the school hosted a Department of Defense Education Activity opponent for the first time in its 50-year history on Friday night.
The Vicenza High School Cougars traveled to Bahrain to face the Falcons on the basketball court in games on Friday and Saturday. Tip-off was scheduled for 5 p.m. both days — Friday at Naval Support Activity Bahrain and Saturday at the Bahrain School. The boys and girls teams will each play both days, for a total of four games.
Throughout the week leading up to the matchup, students participated in themed events, such as pajama days and lip sync battles. In the latter, the faculty crushed the competition with a performance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
High school and middle school students competed for bragging rights in field day events on Thursday. A pep rally ended with a scrimmage basketball game pitting the varsity boys’ and girls’ teams against the faculty. With a little help from a sixth man and some overlooked playful fouls, the teachers won 23-16.
“It was so heartwarming to see my school come together for this 50th anniversary and share some Falcon spirit,” said Nicole Parker, a senior. “Especially considering this is my senior year, I couldn’t help but cheer along and support my school.”
School alumni also returned to their alma mater Thursday evening for a dinner and social event. Several told Stars and Stripes they planned to cheer on the varsity teams.
The oldest alum in attendance, Fahad Murad, began attending the Bahrain School when it opened in 1968 and graduated in 1977. Now a Bahraini investment banker, Murad and Isa Al Khalifa, the youngest alum there, cut a cake during the alumni event.
“It’s like a family,” Murad said of the gathering, and noted the school’s growth and improved facilities since starting with 50 students and three teachers five decades ago. At the time, it was the only English-language curriculum on the island. “When I look at the track, at the football field and the indoor basketball — that is really amazing ... students are very lucky.”
Nearly 740 now attend the K-12 school. The Falcons sports teams have historically traveled to Europe for DODEA championship tournaments each year, typically in Germany or Italy, but rarely on their home turf do they face competitors of Vicenza’s caliber.
It’s difficult to compete when they only get one shot a year, said girls basketball coach and physical education teacher Brant Tyron.
“We have to prepare the kids for this European tournament, especially because we’re spending a lot of money to fly them to Europe,” Tyron said. “But we’re not getting the competition we need here locally so how can we get that?”
The school also competes in the Bahrain Island League to hone their skills during the long gaps between DODEA matchups. The Falcons currently hold the championship title in the local club. Other DODEA schools in Europe face-off more often, a kind of schedule Tyron said he would prefer.
“DODDS is now providing us that opportunity by bringing Vicenza here,” he said, using the former acronym for referring to overseas military schools.
The games won’t go on either school’s division records because the Bahrain School competes in the lower Division II, but Tyron said he is excited for the competition the Division I Cougars will bring. Bahrain will fly to Rome next month to play three Division II schools.
It’s not clear why another DODEA school has never visited Bahrain, but the coaches said it might be because it’s easier for Bahrain to travel to them than the other way around, something Tyron hopes to see change in the future.
“We are excited to host. We would love for this to expand,” he said. “We would love to host multiple times per season or travel multiple times.”
Tofunmi Sodeinde, a junior, started playing basketball in Bahrain when she first moved to the island six years ago and has travelled to Germany and Italy for both volleyball and basketball tournaments, but she said the stakes are higher than normal for this weekend’s game, even if the results won’t go on the record books.
“I’m a little nervous, because it’s the first time in 50 years,” she said.
Bahrain School’s players are seeking the win, of course, said boys’ varsity coach Emiliano Herrera.
“It makes me proud to have great athletes that are pushing every single day to get better,” Herrera said. “Both teams, we’re going to put everything on the table to get the win.”