With Saudi Arabia sending a ‘B’ team, is the Gulf Cup still relevant?

Updated 16 December 2017
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With Saudi Arabia sending a ‘B’ team, is the Gulf Cup still relevant?

LONDON: Just a few short weeks ago it looked as though this year’s Gulf Cup wouldn’t go ahead, or if it did it would be a significantly watered down version after Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain pulled out as a result of Qatar hosting.
While Kuwait’s return to international football, and subsequent return of hosting duties, has thrown the Gulf Cup a lifeline, the question has to be asked — if it did not go ahead, would it actually be missed?
There can be no doubting the Gulf Cup’s history and importance in the Middle East. Some of the best teams in the region have confirmed their superiority with Gulf Cup titles, such as Kuwait in the 1970s and 1980s, and Saudi Arabia at the turn of the century.
Regional bragging rights were, and still are, very important.
But in the modern football world, with more football to consume than ever before, is there a future for the Gulf Cup or is it a relic of bygone era?
The timing of the tournament presents the first major stumbling block, sitting outside the FIFA window meaning clubs aren’t obliged to release their players for the tournament. In the Gulf region leagues and clubs tend to play their part and either take a break or release the players, but that is certainly not the case for clubs around the world.
If football in the Gulf is to develop over the next decade, more players need to make the move to Europe to further their development. You can rest assured that no European club will allow their players to miss valuable club time to head home to participate in what is, for all intents and purposes, a series of friendly matches.
Saudi Arabia have already flagged their intentions by announcing they plan to send their ‘B’ team to the tournament. They may not have won the Gulf Cup since 2003, which may sting their pride, but with the World Cup only six months away, they have far greater priorities.
For them the Gulf Cup is just one step on a bigger journey, not the final destination. It will be used as a development opportunity as they look to unearth potential stars of the future. They are not after the short-term sugar hit that comes from winning a title, they are focusing on a longer-term plan.
And that really is the crux of the matter.
While regional rivalries are important, if the Gulf nations want to genuinely develop and be competitive on the world stage they need to broaden their view. It’s not enough anymore to just be better than your neighbors. While that may give fans and federations a warm fuzzy feeling, ultimately it means very little.
Since Saudi Arabia’s last success Qatar have won two Gulf Cups, including the last edition in 2014, but it has failed to translate into success outside the Gulf.
Gone are the days of the Gulf Cup being confirmation of the best team in the region. The past four editions of the tournament have produced four different winners, including Oman and Kuwait.
Perhaps the example set by Saudi Arabia this year could be the way forward to keep the Gulf Cup relevant. Make the Gulf Cup an U23 tournament, just like the Olympics, which also morphed from a senior tournament into an underage one.
That way the event can be a showcase of the best young talent in the region, a way to give them valuable international experience and a chance to press their claims for senior selection.
The Gulf Cup may not be as prestigious as it once was, but it can still have a future.


Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath to retire from international cricket after Galle Test against England

Updated 43 min 40 sec ago
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Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath to retire from international cricket after Galle Test against England

  • Sri Lanka Cricket said in a statement on Monday that Herath announced his decision at a meeting with cricket board officials
  • The 40-year-old Herath made his test debut in 1999 and has played 92 tests with 430 wickets

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka spin bowler Rangana Herath will retire from international cricket next month after the first Test against England.
Sri Lanka Cricket said in a statement on Monday that Herath announced his decision at a meeting with cricket board officials.
“We respect and support Rangana’s decision, even though his retirement will be a big loss for Sri Lanka Cricket,” SLC chief executive Ashley de Silva said.
The 40-year-old Herath made his Test debut in 1999 and has played 92 Tests with 430 wickets. He has already retired from shorter formats.
Despite a promising start to his career, Herath’s chances to represent Sri Lanka were limited for the next decade because of the presence of record-breaking bowler Muttiah Muralitharan in the team.
Herath, however, persisted with good performances in domestic cricket and by playing for clubs in England.
He was recalled unexpectedly to the national team for a test match against Pakistan while playing in England in 2009 and immediately made an impact with a match-winning performance. It marked the beginning of a highly successful second phase of his career during which he took on the mantle of a match winner from Muralitharan, who retired with 800 Test wickets in 2010.
During the second phase, Herath played in 78 Tests in nine years and took 394 wickets to become the most successful left arm spinner in Test cricket history. He is 10th in the list of highest wicket takers in Test matches.
Herath has 74 wickets in one-day internationals and 18 wickets in Twenty 20 internationals.
The first Test against England will begin in Galle on Nov. 6.