LAST season was a historic one for the post-merger era of Al Ahli Club; and for all the wrong reasons. For the first time in the club's history, Al Ahli Club saw itself relegated from the top tier of Bahrain football. In the wake of Al Ahli's failed attempt in the relegation playoff against Al Malkiya Club, the news must have been hard to swallow for all the veterans that fought hard to establish their beloved Manama-based club.
In fact, the last time Al Ahli took part in the second tier of football divisions in Bahrain was over 50 years ago!
Historically, Al Ahli shared similar beginnings to that of the Milan based clubs. It is well-known that a group of A.C. Milan players left their club to found a club they called their own in Internazionale. The new Milan-based club was created to reflect the ideals and spirit of its founders. So was the case when players/brothers Mohammed and Abdulla Hamza (my great uncles) left their club Al Ahli to found a club that shared their own ambitions, and they called it Nusoor Club.
The newly formed club was relegated, hence started its reins in the second divison in the Bahrain league system in 1958, and contrary to the belief of many, they managed to win the second division title in the first time of asking. If that was deemed remarkable, then the club's performance in its following year was nothing short of extraordinary. Nusoor Club was able to win a league and cup double in its first appearance in the top tier. In doing so, Nusoor was the first club to by breaking bitter rivals Muharraq Club's dominance in the league competition.
After numerous triumphs in football and other sports, the crowd's favourite Nusoor Club merged with Al Ahli back in 1977 (hence the current rivalry between Al Ahli and Muharraq Club dubbed as the "Bahrain Derby").
It is unknown whether Al Ahli will be able to replicate the heroics of Yusuf Al Sabbagh's generation back in the 1959 and 1960 seasons, when Nusoor Club won promotion and the league title in back-to-back years. Surely, the club's fans would be hoping so, at least the optimistic ones would. There is also a hint of fear that the relegation may be seen as an ingredient for the club's demise.
Many clubs have been labelled "too big to fall" and yet were unable to bounce back from relegation. Leeds United suffered from relegation in 2004 and further relegation in 2007 to see them compete in the third tier in the English league system.
What is known for sure is that for the sake of Bahraini football, Al Ahli must regroup and tackle the reasons of their relegation. Bahrain is at risk of losing the identity of one of its biggest rivalries in the Al Ahli and Muharraq Club derby.
Al Ahli Club has to make sure that the damage of relegation is only brief, and history repeats itself with glory.
Bahrain history taught us Al Ahli Club can defy the odds by reaching the highs of glory following the lows of relegation.