DOHA, Dec 9, (Agencies): Gulf Cup organisers will officially announce early next week that the tournament will be played in Kuwait not Qatar after overcoming political and administrative obstacles, a senior official said Saturday.
“We will officially announce it on Monday (Dec 11),” said Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation general secretary Jassim al-Rumaihi.
The Gulf Cup has been plagued by problems.
It was originally scheduled to take place in Kuwait last year, but that country’s football association was suspended by FIFA in October 2015 over alleged government meddling in sports.
After Kuwait’s suspension, the tournament was switched to World Cup 2022 host Qatar.
That did not solve the problem. A bitter dispute erupted on June 5 when Qatar was politically and economically isolated by a quartet of neighbouring countries including Saudi Arabi, UAE and Bahrain over alleged support for terrorist groups and Doha’s warming relations with Riyadh’s great regional rival, Shiite-dominated Iran.
Earlier this month, FIFA lifted Kuwait’s suspension after the national parliament adopted a law meant to end government interference in the sport.
That cleared the way to move the tournament back to its original host.
“It will take place at exactly the same dates, the 22nd of December to the fifth of January,” al-Rumaihi said.
He added that organisers were still waiting to hear from the federations of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but it is widely expected they will now take part in the eight team competition.
Attempts to get the three nations to play in a tournament in Doha failed last month and Saudi, UAE and Bahrain were ‘withdrawn’ from the competition.
However, following the lifting of Kuwait’s suspension, the Qatar Football Association said it was willing for the tournament to go ahead in Kuwait.
The move has been backed by FIFA chief Gianni Infantino who said he would attend the opening games on Dec 22 and 23.
The Gulf Cup is usually played every two years between Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Gianni Infantino said Friday he was very happy and encouraged to welcome Kuwaiti football back into the international football community, and that he would attend Gulf Cup in Kuwait.
Kuwait Football Association’s (KFA) Technical Committee said Saturday it agreed with Al-Jahra football team’s manager, Boris Bunjak, to coach the national team for the 23th Gulf Cup, which would be held in Kuwait later this month.
Bunjak, on Serbian, would start the first practice of the national team tomorrow Sunday, KFA said in a statement.
The announcement of Bunjak came after Al-Jahra Sport Club’s approval, it said.
The Gulf Cup will be held between Dec 22 and Jan 5.
Teams from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Oman, Iraq and Yemen will compete in the championship.