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.”


Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 20 July 2019
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Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

CAIRO: Baghdad Bounedjah’s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years after a fiery 1-0 victory over Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.
Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute when his deflected shot looped over Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, and it proved enough for the 1990 champions to lift the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.
For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.
It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.
With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.
Senegal had understandably feared the absence of Napoli star Koulibaly, banned after two bookings in the knockout rounds, although the towering Sane was desperately unlucky as Algeria grabbed the lead with scarcely a minute played.
As Bounedjah took aim from 20 yards his effort smacked off Sane and arced high into the air before dropping underneath the crossbar and beyond a static Gomis, sparking delirious celebrations from both players and fans, some of whom arrived for the final on military planes provided by the Algerian government.
It was the first time Gomis had conceded in almost 400 minutes in Egypt having replaced the injured Edouard Mendy ahead of Senegal’s final group game.
Henri Saivet, who missed a penalty in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia, tried to catch Rais Mbohli out with a free-kick while Mbaye Niang fizzed a powerful drive just over as Senegal gradually showed signs of life before the half ended with both sets of players embroiled in a scuffle as they headed for the tunnel.
Senegal thought they had won a penalty on the hour when Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum pointed to the spot for a suspected handball by Adlene Guedioura, but the official reversed his decision after a VAR review.
Niang rounded an advancing Mbohli after a searching ball through from Cheikhou Kouyate but the forward sliced wide of the target from a tough angle, with the Algeria ‘keeper then acrobatically tipping over a rasping drive from Youssouf Sabaly.
The Desert Foxes started to look jaded as Senegal brought on fresh legs in Krepin Diatta and Mbaye Diagne, but Youcef Belaili nearly made it 2-0 when his cross brushed the head of a defender and skimmed the roof of the net.
Sarr blazed over on the volley as Algeria clung on to their advantage in the closing minutes, the final whistle greeted by an outpouring of raw emotion as the North Africans emerged worthy winners of the expanded 24-team event.