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Saudi, the UAE, and Bahrain boycott football Arab Gulf Cup in Qatar

  • 17 Jul 2019

The trio of countries cited the ongoing blockade as their reason for not attending, as the tournament is left with just five remaining teams.

General view of Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar in this file photo from July 14, 2018. ( Ibraheem al Omari / Reuters )

The Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation announced on Monday that the 24th edition of the Arabian Gulf Cup will be held in Qatar’s capital Doha in late 2019. 

In a meeting attended by representatives of Kuwait, Oman, Iraq and Yemen, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Executive Bureau confirmed the date of the 24th version of the tournament.

Two years ago, the last Arab Gulf Cup was held in Kuwait and was won by Oman with a line up of eight teams.

This year, it will be held without teams from three states. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have announced they will not be taking part. The trio have been boycotting the host country, Qatar, since June 5, 2017.

That leaves just five countries for this year’s tournament. In addition to title-holders Oman and host Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait and Yemen will also be playing matches.

The Secretary General of the Gulf Union Jassim al Rumaihi said in a statement that the tournament will proceed whether or not the three holdout teams participate. The tournament will be held as a one-round league system, he told Qatari media outlets.

A similar politically-motivated withdrawal occurred during 1990, when Iraq did not take part in the tournament in Kuwait and invaded the country months later.

Iraq was also supposed to host the 2017 tournament but declined because it didn’t have stadiums ready. Instead, the tournament was held in Kuwait and Oman won the title. That year, Qatar was able to participate even though the countries that have been boycotting it were also playing.

Qatar is also preparing to host the World Cup in 2022. To this end, it has built two international stadiums, Khalifa International and South Stadium. The Gulf Championship will be a preliminary test of Qatar’s ability to bear the burden of hosting a major event.

Qatar was scheduled to host the 2017 tournament, but it relinquished its right to organise the tournament to Kuwait in celebration of FIFA’s lifting of the international suspension for non-compliance on the Kuwait Football Association in December that year.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain, also threatened to boycott the 2017 tournament if it was held in Qatar.

Qatar is also the winner of the Asian Cup, winning a final match against Japan in February this year. The United Arab Emirates, one of the boycotting countries, was the host for the tournament, so the win was even more significant and satisfying for Doha.

Because of the boycott imposed on Qatar affecting air and land routes, the football players had to fly via Kuwait to reach the United Arab Emirates, a longer route than necessary.

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