Bahrain national team defender Manar Ebrahim Jasim, who kicked off her footballing career when she was nine, is going full circle as she is now helping a club in Isa Town develop a new generation of female players for the kingdom.
For the past month, the Riffa Club defender has been training girls and women, aged between 12 and 27, at Isa Club Super Soccer.
She hopes her love for the game and her years of experience on the pitch will inspire a new string of players for the Bahrain women’s national football team.
The 26-year-old from Hamad Town said: “My goal is to train and develop girls for the national squad. There are many reasons why women should take up this sport. Not only do you build friendships but also your self-esteem and it keeps you fit mentally and physically.”
The assistant coach has been working on their fitness levels as well as their co-ordination and control skills.
“Also, when you are a part of the national team, you won’t just be playing a game you love, but raising your country’s name and flag in the process,” she added. “Plus, we need to get rid of the idea that girls can’t play football.
“My family was not keen on the idea for me at first but when they saw how much I love it, how I play and how far it has taken me, they are now my biggest supporters.
“Football is not just a sport or a competition; it’s a gift that you will forever enjoy.”
Sport and competition was a part of Jasim’s upbringing as most of her family members were involved in some kind of activity. Her mum Haya Juma played volleyball and her brother Fawaz Ebrahim used to be the midfielder at Al Hala Football Club. Her father used to also be a defender for the Isa Football Club when he was younger.
“Most of my uncles also play football and some are into swimming so we have always been heavily involved in sports,” said Jasim.
“We used to watch football at my grandmother’s house too and that’s how I got sucked into the game. But it wasn’t easy for me at first.
“My family would tell me that a girl playing football is not part of our tradition and that girls can’t play. But I changed their minds when they saw how well I was doing.
“My mum especially is my biggest fan. She would be there for every game and be at the airport to send me off as well as upon my return from international competition.”
Jasim started her journey at nine playing for Al Najma Club. She was then scouted for the Bahrain Football Association and joined the Riffa Club at 20.
She has now won 54 caps and has scored 16 times for the national side. Success at Riffa Club included winning the women’s league in the 2015/2016 season and picking up the ‘Most Valuable Player’ (MVP) accolade.
Jasim continued with Riffa Club but named as Blue Pearls and the team achieved doubles success winning the league in 2016/2017 and the cup.
In the third season of the league, Blue Pearls repeated their success and again in the 2018/2019 season the team stormed to double success. She also clinched the MVP prize once more.
In February 2006, Bahrain won the Arabian Women’s Tournament held in Abu Dhabi and also took home the Fair Play trophy. It was after this achievement that the sport became even more popular in the country and more women expressed their interest to join clubs.
Further success came the following year when Bahrain won the Arabian Women’s Tournament, which Jasim was a part of.
Jasim also participated in the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship in 2010, 2011 and 2014 where the team took bronze.
She almost secured her dreams of playing for an international club in Spain in 2014. She went for a trial run alongside her teammate Yasmeen Fayez at the Levante Unión Deportiva Femenino which is the women’s football team of Valencian football club Levante UD. Both women were offered contracts to play professionally but they declined for contractual reasons.
In 2019, she joined her national squad in the West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship yet again and the team secured second place.
Jasim also played with the team in the Arabia Cup 2010: On the Road to Germany where they took bronze.