January 6 – The 25th Arabian Gulf Cup kicks off today in Iraq, the first time the eight-team competition has been played since 2019 and the first time it has been hosted in Iraq since 1979.
It will also be the first time the competition has had a title sponsor with Kuwaiti mobile telecoms provider Zain Group picking up the rights – the event is being dubbed the ‘Khaleeji Zain 25’.
The Arabian Gulf Cup is played every two years in one of the Arabian Gulf Cup Football Federation’s member nations – Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or Yemen.
All matches will be hosted in Basra with Zain Group driving a lot of the media profile with a campaign tagged ‘Eldenya Basra’ to support the event and welcome the regional Gulf teams and delegations.
The Zain campaign emphasises the significance of the occasion and in particular the return of regional competitions to Iraq and the efforts made to promote youth empowerment and sports development.
Showcasing Basra’s cultural heritage and historical ties to the Gulf nations, Zain has commissioned a song by Iraqi musician Mahmoud El Turki that is airing on social media platforms and media channels.
On the pitch the competition promises some fascinating match-ups. Yemen are the current holders of the title but competition with be fierce from Saudi Arabia, who beat world champions Argentina in Qatar last November, as well as from the UAE and Iraqi, both of whom had real aspirations of qualifying for the Qatar 2022 event.
Qatar, the current Asian Cup champions from 2019, are something of an unknown quantity without coach Felix Sanchez who departed after a disappointing World Cup showing. Those players will be keen to prove themselves when they open their campaign against Kuwait tomorrow.
Iraq open the competition today against Oman, followed by Yemen against Saudi Arabia. The Iraqis meet the Saudis on Monday.
The tournament is played in two groups of four, followed by semis and a final. It runs January 6 to 19.
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