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.”


Al-Hilal fine tune preparations in Austria and integrate new boy Andre Carrillo

Updated 22 July 2018
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Al-Hilal fine tune preparations in Austria and integrate new boy Andre Carrillo

  • Saudi champions play Slovenia’s NK Kalcer Radomlje on Sunday
  • Peru World Cup star Carrillo has trained with his new teammates

LONDON: “So far, so good.” That is the message coming out of the Al-Hilal ranks as the Saudi Arabia champions start their preparations for the 2018-19 Saudi Pro League season at a training camp in Austria.
Within the first week of their arrival in Europe, the defending champions have welcomed their 2018 World Cup contingent back to action, have strengthened their ranks with a high-profile international signing and won their first warm-up match with plenty to spare.
New coach Jorge Jesus is happy with the way it is all going ahead of the big kick-off next month.
“It is good to be here as the temperatures are much better for playing football,” Jesus, who was appointed in June, told Portuguese television. “It’s cooler here than back in Saudi Arabia with temperatures there over 40 degrees. Everything is going well, the players are training hard and we are working to be ready for the new season.”
The Riyadh giants have been training in Europe for a week and kicked off their build-up with a 5-0 thrashing of local team Rapid Lienz on Thursday. The scoreline included a brace from Brazilian midfielder Carlos Eduardo and a strike from Syrian forward Omar Khribin. Both stars missed large parts of last season with injury.
Ali Al-Habsi was between the sticks in that victory over the Austrians and enjoyed a quiet afternoon.
“We are still getting accustomed to the new coach as every coach has his own style,” the former English Premier League star said. “The coach’s style is different and we will get to know him at this training camp and all has been going well so far.
“We have been focusing on defensive organization and also trying to improve our attacking play and we know that we still have a lot of work to do.”
On Thursday, the defending champions welcomed back seven of their Saudi Arabia internationals from Russia. As well as Salem Al-Dawsari, who scored the last-minute goal against Egypt on June 25 to give the country a first World Cup win since 1994, Abdullah Otayf, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Salman Al-Faraj, Mohamed Kanoo, Ali Al-Bulaihi and goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf are now in full training.
They have been joined by a new arrival in the shape of Peruvian international Andre Carillo on a one-year deal from Benfica. The winger, who previously worked with Jesus at Sporting Lisbon and spent last season on loan in the English Premier League with Watford, should add firepower to the two-time continental champions.


“This is a new stage and challenge in my career,” said the 27-year-old who scored for Peru against Australia in the 2018 World Cup to give the South Americans their first win on the global stage since 1978. “I am ready for the challenge and would like to thank (Al-Hilal president) Sami Al-Jaber for believing in me.”
Coach Jesus is pleased with his new signing. “It is not always easy to convince top international players to come but he agreed and is excited to show what he can do,” he said. “I know Carillo well and asked him to come and join me. I am sure that he will fit in well with his new team.”
Al-Hilal continue their preparations with a clash with Slovenia’s NK Kalcer Radomlje on Sunday. Then come games with Fortuna Dusseldorf of Germany, Turkish team Akhisarspor and then a final European test against Serie A side Udinese.