DOHA: A deadline given by Gulf Cup organisers asking Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to play in next month’s tournament, hosted by Qatar, has passed without response.
Organisers told AFP yesterday that they would now meet later this week to decide whether to go ahead with the tournament. However, it looks increasingly like the Gulf Cup will become the first major sporting casualty of a crisis in the region which has seen the 2022 World Cup host politically and diplomatically isolated by its neighbours since June.
“There was no response, we didn’t receive any responses at all,” said Gulf Cup Football Federation general secretary Jassim al-Rumaihi. “A decision will be made on the 16th.” Asked if he thought any tournament was likely, Rumaihi responded: “I hope so. Let’s be optimistic on this.”
The tournament could still take place but just be played between Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Kuwait and Yemen. The deadline passed on November 13. A letter had been sent to the federations in Saudi, UAE and Bahrain urging them to play in the eight-team tournament due to begin in Doha on December 22.
Question marks have been placed over their involvement as Qatar has been isolated for the past five months in a bitter dispute with neighbours, including Saudi, UAE and Bahrain. These three are among a group of countries which accuse Qatar of supporting extremism and fostering ties with Iran, charges Doha denies.
Everything now depends on Kuwait. Gulf Cup organisers have said they will only go ahead if Kuwait take part, but to add to the uncertainty, Kuwait’s football association remains suspended by FIFA and it is unclear if its team can play in the tournament.
The Gulf Cup, played every two years, was originally meant to be hosted by Kuwait in 2016 but was moved to Qatar because of the FIFA ban.
Any cancellation of the Gulf Cup could cause embarrassment to Qatar, as it continues its $500 million-a-week preparations for 2022. The final is due to be played in the Khalifa International Stadium, which will host matches in 2022. – AFP