Gulf Cup to return to Kuwait following lifting of FIFA ban

FIFA president Gianni Infantino with Kuwaiti national assembly speaker Ghanim Marzouq before lifting the ban on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 08 December 2017
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Gulf Cup to return to Kuwait following lifting of FIFA ban

DUBAI: The 23rd Gulf Cup of Nations will take place in Kuwait instead of Qatar, following the lifting of FIFA’s ban on Kuwaiti football, the tournament’s organizers said late last night.
“We congratulate the people of Kuwait and we are happy to see football return to the country,” said Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, head of the Arabian Gulf Football Association.
“We have no problem in the Gulf Cup being moved back to Kuwait and it will take place in the agreed time”, added Al-Thani.
The competition was initially scheduled to take place in Kuwait in December last year, but was delayed by 12 months following the suspension of Kuwait Football Association.
Efforts to lift the suspension failed to deliver results as FIFA extended the isolation of Kuwaiti football in May 2017, and the Gulf Cup organizers agreed to move the 2017 edition to Qatar.
The diplomatic crisis involving Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain from one side and Qatar on the other saw the three Gulf nations sever ties with their neighbor and subsequently withdraw from the competition.
The Gulf Cup regulations state that at least five countries must participate in order for any edition of the tournament to go through, and with the three nations withdrawing and Kuwait suspended, the organizers found themselves facing the possibility of cancelling this year’s edition with only Qatar, Oman, Iraq and Yemen confirming their participation.
FIFA’s decision to reinstate Kuwait back into international football breathed new life into the Gulf Cup and the organizing rights return to Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE are yet to confirm whether they will now join the other five countries in the competition which is scheduled to begin on Dec. 22 and continue through to the Jan. 5.
Meanwhile Asian Football Confederation regulations can cope with any political issues facing clubs from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who meet in next season’s AFC Champions League, General Secretary Windsor John said yesterday.
The crisis has seen Saudi Arabia and the UAE — along with Bahrain and Egypt — cut diplomatic, transport and trade ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of financing terrorism.
Doha denies the charges.
Clubs from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were drawn to play each other on Wednesday in the group phase of the AFC Champions League, which kicks off in February, but John believes the confederation can weather the political storm.
“The AFC executive committee has made a decision that they would like all of the matches to be played as per the format, and I believe our regulations at AFC are solid enough to deal with any situation as we have done in the past,” John told Reuters.
“So we are confident there will be nothing done outside the regulations. The regulations cover every scenario, so we are good.
“We’ve just finished the 2017 competition and everybody talked about issues and problems and we finished it quite successfully. I think we want to build on the success rather than talk about other issues at the moment.
“The exco (executive committee) also decided a very high level delegation will go and explain the situation to all of the affected countries.
“I think it should be OK, so long as we follow the regulations. We have a good structure in place.”


Cristiano Ronaldo ready for emotional return to Manchester United in Champions League

Updated 23 October 2018
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Cristiano Ronaldo ready for emotional return to Manchester United in Champions League

  • Ronaldo returns to former home but backs new side Juve to do the damage at Old Trafford.
  • Portuguese will want focus to be on the football after rape allegations levelled at the former Real Madrid man.

MANCHESTER: Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo is ready for an emotional return to his former club Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday but believes the Italian side can win by executing their gameplan.
Ronaldo is back at Old Trafford for the first time since 2013 when his goal for Real Madrid sent the Spaniards through to the Champions League quarter-finals at United’s expense.
“Emotional? I can remember what it was like when I was at Manchester,” the Portuguese said.
“I won lots of trophies here. I remember the support as well, the support was fantastic.”
Ronaldo lifted three Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two League Cups plus the first of his five Champions League crowns during six years at United and expects a tough game against Jose Mourinho’s team despite their recent struggles.
United are 10th in the Premier League after a sluggish start to the season and second in Champions League Group H, two points behind Juve after a win and a draw in their first two matches.
“It will be a difficult game. Manchester have a good team, they play at home,” Ronaldo said. “It will be tough for us, but we have our weapons. We have a chance, I know if we play the way the coach wants, we have a good chance to win the game.”
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri, whose team are four points clear atop Serie A after eight wins and a draw, said they would have to match United’s physicality and revealed he would play with a back four to give the side more stability.
“It will be a physical game, we will have to approach it with great concentration, manage the ball and set up well on a technical level to avoid one of the greatest dangers that they can bring us, namely high balls,” Allegri said.
The Italians will be without their Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic due to an ankle injury, while their Germany midfielder Emre Can will miss the match because of a thyroid problem.
“I’m sorry there’s no Mandzukic, though it is not anything serious with him. I’d already thought about playing with others in attack,” Allegri added. “We’ll probably play with a back four because in midfield we’ll have to numerically match them.”