JEDDAH: The Saudi Bowling Federation (SBF) is one of the oldest sports federations in the Kingdom. It was created in 1989 by a group of passionate bowlers who learned the game while traveling abroad for work or study.
The SBF legacy began with Prince Faisal bin Fahd, who was among the initial supporters in the early 80s and who inaugurated the first bowling center in Jeddah in 1979.
In 1981, Ibrahim Al-Juraifani got together with the bowling aficionados and created a Saudi team that competed for the first time at the World Singles in 1983. The SBF started as a committee in 1987 and went on to become a federation two years later.
In 1989, the SBF joined the Asian Bowling Federation and the International Bowling Federation. In 2000, when the Arab Bowling Federation was created, the SBF became a member as well.
Bowling is a simple game to play but a hard one to master, requiring both mental and physical skills, which makes it challenge to compete at an international level.
Nonetheless, the SBF managed to collect more than 30 medals over the years. Among them was the first gold medal, which was awarded in 1992 at the third Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Championship for men and youth. In the early 2000s, Talal Al-Towaireb also won third place in the AMF World Cup in Latvia.
Bader Al-Sheikh, considered one of the greatest bowlers in Saudi Arabian history, collected over 25 medals, including for third place in the AMF World Cup in Slovenia in 2005 and in the 2006 Asian Games. These wins were in addition to other international, Asian, Arab, and GCC achievements with the national team, some of which he delivered with his younger brother Hassan.
Abdulrahman Al-Kheliwi won the bronze medal at the World Cup in Detroit, another two bronzes at the Asian Bowling Championship in the Philippines in 2018, and a gold medal at the trio event at the Arab Bowling Championship in Oman.
The federation witnessed four presidency terms starting with Dr. Mohammed Al-Bazi (1992-2002), followed by Ibrahim Al-Juraifani (2002-2014) and then by Prince Abdulhakim Ibn Musaed (2014-2017), who was also elected vice president for the Asian Bowling Federation in 2016. Bader Al-Sheikh (2017-present) is the youngest among all other 64 sport federations presidents. His success as an international elite bowler and later on as part of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, however, qualified him for the position.
“We have achieved many victories at both a regional and international level. Bowling has also witnessed many developments, such as the inclusion of women in local championships,” Al-Sheikh said.
During Al-Sheikh’s presidency, the SBF managed to place third at the Youth Bowling World Cup and first at the Hong Kong International Open Championship. It has also collected gold and bronze medals at the Arab Championship.
“I’ve been bowling from a very young age, and I’ve witnessed many achievements. I’m happy to contribute to these victories,” Al-Kheliwi said.
“It has been an honor to be associated with the SBF. I’m also very proud of the achievement of the national team. The highlight was being crowned champions at the Asian Games in 2006,” said Mario Joseph, who spent seven years coaching the national men’s team and later the women’s team in 2019.
Currently, the SBF has Bahraini coach Masoud Sabiri to supervise the national team, along with three local coaches who are internationally certified — Mohammed Al-Najrani, Majid Aslani, and Yassir Abulreesh.
The SBF is making strides in gender equality, electing a woman to its board of directors. Dr. Razan Baker supervised the inauguration of the women’s team in 2018. The women’s team started out as a group of 13 women in Alkhobar at the Al-Gosaibi Bowling Center. After showing great progress, the federation began supervising them professionally and providing them with equipment and training. Now, the SBF have three teams in all major cities — Alkhobar, Riyadh, and Jeddah — with a total of 29 Saudi bowlers, in addition to numerous fans who travel from various cities to show support in the local championships.
Distinguished female bowlers were chosen to participate abroad in international competitions such the sixth GCC Women’s Bowling Tournament and the 55th QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup singles in Palembang, Indonesia.
Bowler Mashael Al-Abdulwahid expressed her joy and pride at being part of the federation and representing the Kingdom.
“Nothing beats the atmosphere at the bowling center. We can’t wait to go back,” she said.