SINGAPORE, Oct 17, (Agencies): Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim will take on Tajikistan outfit Istiklol in the final of the AFC Cup after their semifinal opponents were kicked out of the competition following Kuwait’s FIFA ban. Defending champions Al- Qadsia, who beat JDT 3-1 in the first leg last month, and Al- Kuwait, who thumped Istiklol 4-0, were due to play the second legs away next week but FIFA banned the country on Friday for government interference in the local football association.
“Following the decision by FIFA to suspend the Kuwait Football Association and its members from all football activities, Kuwait SC and Qadsia SC are no longer eligible to compete in the AFC Cup semifinals,” the Asian Football Confederation said in a short statement on Saturday.
The AFC did not mention what would happen to Kuwait, who are currently second in Group G of their joint 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifying campaign and are scheduled to play again on Nov 17 away in Myanmar.
The AFC Cup final will be held in the Tajikistan capital Dushanbe on Oct 31 and will see a new name and nationality lift the trophy. Kuwaiti clubs have dominated the second tier regional tournament of late, winning the last three editions and making the finals of the previous six. Al-Kuwait’s three titles make them the most successful AFC Cup team in the tournament’s 12-year history.
Their last title came in 2013 when they beat Al- Qadsia in the final. Meanwhile, the Public Authority for Sports and Youth (PAYS) has held the Kuwait Football Association (KFA) and its chairman Talal Al-Fahad responsible for the FIFA’s decision to suspend Kuwaiti sports activities with immediate effect.
The PAYS said in a statement that the KFA and its chairman should live up to their due national role in defending Kuwait’s sports reputation by means of taking legal action in order to make the FIFA change its mind. It also criticized Kuwaiti executive officials at the FIFA for having failed to do something to withhold this decision, reminding them that they had only assumed their executive posts through the State’s support. It further urged Kuwaiti sports clubs to shoulder the task of defending Kuwaiti athletes’ rights by taking a clear-cut attitude towards both KFA and FIFA.
Furthermore, the PAYS lashed out at the FIFA’s decision as being “totally unfair and arbitrary”, lamenting that it came at a time when talks were still being held by the Kuwaiti delegation, led by Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over the Kuwaiti sports situation. However, the PAYS vowed that it would spare no effort to take appropriate moves in order to keep local sports activities going on, and to address any attempt to undermine Kuwait’s sports reputation.
The FIFA earlier on Friday suspended Kuwait Football Association (KFA) with immediate effect, banning any team from Kuwait to take part in any international event. On Sept 25th, the FIFA warned the Kuwaiti Football Association that it would slap a ban on the country’s participation in international soccer events as of Oct 15, unless Kuwait amended the local sports laws and rendered them compatible with international regulations.