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.”


Jordan Smith, Adrian Otaegui take surprise early lead at DP World Tour Championship in Dubai

Updated 15 November 2018
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Jordan Smith, Adrian Otaegui take surprise early lead at DP World Tour Championship in Dubai

DUBAI: Jordan Smith and Adrian Otaegui shared the lead after day one of the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai as Francesco Molinari tightened his grip on the European Tour’s season-long crown.
England’s Jordan Smith and Spain’s Adrian Otaegui have a share of the lead going into Friday’s second round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, as Francesco Molinari moved closer to sealing the Race to Dubai crown.
Smith and Otaegui both shot rounds of 66 at Jumeirah Golf Estates to sit six-under par, one shot clear of the defending champion Jon Rahm and former Masters champion Danny Willett.
Italian Molinari knows a tie for fifth place with one other will secure him the European Tour’s season-ending title, but he looks set to go one better as he was just a shot further back after a 68 on the Earth Course.
Defending champion Tommy Fleetwood needs to win the tournament to have any chance of denying Molinari, and the Englishman was three shots off the lead after a 69.
“I hit a lot of good shots on that front nine,” early leader Smith said. “I just couldn’t quite find the hole. I hit a lot of good putts, all burning the edge and then something clicked on that back nine and they started going in. I think you can just take a lot of confidence into the next few days.”
Otaegui, who remained bogey-free in his first round, has two wins on the European Tour but neither of them have come in 72-hole stroke play.
“I played really well,” he said. “I was solid from tee-to-green. I left myself lots of birdie chances. I thought I putted well. Six birdies, no bogeys, it’s always a very good start. It’s more important to have a good finish, as well.”
Otaegui made a birdie-birdie start and then added another on the par-five seventh to turn in 33. Gains on the tenth and 14th had him within one and a stunning third into the last set up a closing birdie.
Elsewhere, Rory McIlroy’s announcement that he would play only two European Tour events in 2019 was the main talking point on Thursday.
Former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has criticizedthe Northern Irishman for what he calls a “baffling” decision.
“It’s very disappointing,” McGinley said. “I’ve been racking my brains wondering how that can be.
“Obviously Rory sees it in other ways and has got his own rationale for that, although I’m finding it hard to understand,” added McGinley.
World No. 7 McIlroy has to play four European Tour tournaments, apart from the majors and World Golf Championship events, in order to retain Tour membership.
So far, McIlroy has only two tournaments on his schedule and he may miss the Irish Open, which he has hosted for the last four years.