By Mark Baber
April 29 – The national football associations of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq and Yemen have agreed to reinstate Kuwait as hosts of the 23rd Gulf Cup from December 15-29, 2016, if FIFA lift the ban on the country.
The decision was made at a meeting of the standing committee of the Gulf Cup which Kuwait also attended, but only as an observer due to the ongoing ban. It was also agreed that if the ban remained in place, then Qatar would host the tournament which would then be postponed until December 2017.
If Qatar ends up hosting the next edition, it was also agreed that the 24th Gulf Cup would be held in the United Arab Emirates in December 2018.
The final decision on hosting will be taken on June 7.
The Gulf Cup of Nations, (also known controversially as the ‘Arabian Gulf Cup’) is supposedly a biannual tournament, with this edition postponed from last year, officially due to the host Kuwait needing time to complete their infrastructural preparations, but perhaps also due to the fact that five of the usual participants have been bombing one of the others (Yemen) since March of 2015.
Historically riven by political and organisational difficulties, the Gulf Cup of Nations has not been officially recognised by FIFA and like the ‘Arabian Gulf League’ – the top tier of the UAE domestic league – has run into accusations of racism from Iran over its name.
The tournament had been scheduled to be held in Iraq initially, but they withdrew as host in February 2015 citing financial problems.
The FIFA Congress will be meeting in Mexico next month to discuss the ban on Kuwait. In the event the ban is lifted, a FIFA team would reportedly visit Kuwait to inspect the stadiums to see whether the country is ready to host the tournament at the end of this year, which would not be entirely a formality given Shaikh Talal Al Fahd, President of the Kuwaiti Football Federation, argued when the tournament was last postponed that: “The problem is stadiums need maintenance and the lighting in stadiums is weak. It will need four months to maintain. The decision to delay [the tournament] was met with approval and consensus.”
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