December 8 – Within 48 hours of being re-instated by FIFA following a two-year ban, Kuwait has been confirmed as host of the upcoming Gulf Cup, ending widespread uncertainty over whether the troubled event can take place.
Kuwait, originally named as host before its suspension, is taking back the rights from replacement hosts Qatar, a massive relief for organisers in the wake of the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar that led to three of the eight participants pulling out.
Gulf Cup regulations state that at least five countries must take part in order for any edition of the tournament to go ahead and with Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrawing and Kuwait suspended, organisers found themselves facing the possibility of cancelling this year’s edition with only Qatar, Oman, Iraq and Yemen confirming their participation.
Now the tournament can start on time later this month but whether the three countries who boycotted it will return remains unclear. So does whether Kuwait has sufficient infrastructure.
“We congratulate the people of Kuwait and we are happy to see football return to the country,” Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, head of the Arabian Gulf Football Association, said in a statement. “We have no problem in the Gulf Cup being moved back to Kuwait and it will take place in the agreed time”
Meanwhile the Asian Football Confederation insists it can weather the political storm facing clubs from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who meet in next season’s AFC Champions League, according to AFC General Secretary Windsor John.
“The AFC executive committee has made a decision that they would like all of the matches to be played as per the format, and I believe our regulations at AFC are solid enough to deal with any situation as we have done in the past,” John told Reuters.
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