Organizer of Qatar-hosted Gulf Cup sets deadline

Jassim Al-Rumaihi (Courtesy photo)
Updated 08 November 2017
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Organizer of Qatar-hosted Gulf Cup sets deadline

DOHA: Gulf Cup organizers have given Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain a deadline of Monday to say if they will boycott next month’s tournament, hosted by Qatar.
Gulf Cup Football Federation general secretary Jassim Al-Rumaihi told AFP this week that the three countries have been given notice of the deadline.
“We have sent a letter to all of these countries and we are going to set a deadline of Nov. 13 to participate in this tournament,” he said.
He added the deadline was decided at a meeting held in Doha on Monday.
The eight-team Gulf Cup of Nations — set to begin on Dec. 22 — looks increasingly likely to become the first high-profile sporting victim of the political crisis that has engulfed the region.
Qatar has been diplomatically isolated since June 5 in an increasingly bitter dispute, when a group of countries including Saudi, UAE and Bahrain cut all ties with the World Cup 2022 host.
The countries accuse Qatar of supporting extremism and fostering ties with Iran, charges Doha denies, instead claiming the dispute is an attack on its sovereignty.
Regardless, the dispute has now lasted more than 150 days and shows few signs of ending soon.
If the Gulf Cup is canceled it could lead to yet more scrutiny over Qatar’s controversial hosting of football’s biggest tournament in 2022.
The final is due to be played in the Khalifa International Stadium, which will host the World Athletics Championships in 2019 and host matches in 2022.
Al-Rumaihi said organizers would meet again to decide what to do in the event that the three Gulf allies refuse to play.
The tournament could still go ahead without them but only if Kuwait takes part, he added.
To add to the uncertainty surrounding a tournament set to begin in just over 40 days, Kuwait’s football association remains suspended by FIFA and it is unclear if its team can take part in the tournament.
“If they say no, we will have to wait for Kuwait,” said Al-Rumaihi.
“To have this tournament we have to have five teams, we are waiting for Kuwait to solve the problem.”
The tournament, played every two years, was originally meant to be hosted by Kuwait in 2016 but was moved to Qatar because of the FIFA ban.
— AFP


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 20 July 2018
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Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo's toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.