Manama: The summer of 2004 was a special time for Bahraini football fans. Not only had they seen their national team travel to China for only their second appearance at the AFC Asian Cup, but they also watched in delight as a golden generation of talents memorably exceeded expectations.
Bahrain's historic performance came to a climax when they lost 4-3 after extra-time to eventual winners Japan in the semi-finals following an epic battle. It is now 13 years on since that day – August 3, 2004 – when striker Alaa Hubail inspired Al Ahmar (The Red) to the cusp of victory over the Samurai Blue, only for it to be snatched away at the death.
That campaign in China, which still ranks as Bahrain's best-ever in the AFC Asian Cup, went on to kick-start a rise in the kingdom's footballing fortunes, seeing them go close to reaching the FIFA World Cup in both 2006 and 2010.