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.”


Slick Manchester City and awful Arsenal: Five things we learned from the Premier League's opening weekend

Updated 14 August 2018
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Slick Manchester City and awful Arsenal: Five things we learned from the Premier League's opening weekend

  • Sense of deja vu as new season gets underway.
  • A lot of work needing to be put in by some sides after first fixture.

The Premier League season got underway at the weekend, so we have just the nine months of listening to Jose Mourinho moan, watching Manchester City and Liverpool entertain and a lot of controversy to look forward to. We know it is only one game, but ever keen to put our necks on the line, here is what we think we learned from the first 90 minutes of the season.

LESS IS SOMETIMES MORE
We know it is only one match in, but looking at two London clubs, Tottenham and West Ham, it would seem chequebook management sometimes is not the way forward. Spurs bought no one in the summer, yet looked as clinical as they did last season on their way to a 2-1 away win at Newcastle. The Hammers, on the other hand, spent more than £100 million ($127 million) and looked far from the vibrant, new side the fans had hoped for during Liverpool’s easy 4-0 demolition job. Fans would do well to remember that activity in the transfer market is not the be-all and end-all.

It was a tough opening day for Marko Arnautovic and West Ham despite the money spent over the summer. 

SAME OLD ARSENAL
As with transfers, changing the manager likewise is not a quick cure. Judging from the Gunners’ 2-0 defeat by Manchester City, new boss Unai Emery has a big rebuilding job on his hands. Arsenal looked limp during the clash at the Emirates; City barely broke sweat as they took all the points. It was always appreciated that after 22 years of Arsene Wenger, the Spaniard would need some time to stamp his authority on the side, but on the evidence of one match, he perhaps needs more time than anyone thought. Whether he will be given it is another matter.

New coach but same old faults for Mesut Ozil and Arsenal, as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City 

WHO NEEDS A HOLIDAY?
Understandably a lot was made of players who had been at the World Cup being rested and easing them into the season. Try telling that to Raheem Sterling (left), Kyle Walker, Deli Alli and Paul Pogba. All four had small breaks
because of the tournament in Russia and all of them looked fresh, energetic and ready for the long season. Not only that, but all of them were key to their sides’ victories. Whether they maintain that form in remains to be seen.

Paul Pogba clearly did not need a longer break after his brilliant goal-scoring display agaisnt Leicester.

NEW BOYS WILL STRUGGLE 
Opening-day fixtures usually bring cheer to newly-promoted sides. It is common to see a few shocks as the unheralded new boys get one over their more established rivals. On paper Fulham, having to face Crystal Palace at home, Wolverhampton playing Everton at home and Cardiff away at Bournemouth all offered the promoted sides great chances of starting the season well. So the fact that between them they only managed a point — with Wolves having a man advantage for most of the match against Everton — does not bode well. Early days, but new clubs need a good start to have a chance of staying up.

Wolverhampton and fellow new boys Fulham and Cardiff all need a quick start to the season to settle their nerves. 

DEJA VU
Yes, the season is only one game old, but already there is a familiar feel to it. City looked imperious at Arsenal (no bad side), Liverpool look like they will score by the bucketload and run City close, Spurs and Manchester United looked solid and tough teams to beat and Chelsea seemed like they will be in the running for the top four. All in all, it is far from revelatory and far from the edge-of-your-seat-drama you would hope for. That, however, is modern-day football and in the long run we hope we are proved wrong and there are a few shocks on the way.

It was business as usual for Liverpool and Mo Salah as they strolled to a 4-0 demolition job of West Ham.