Gulf Cup ‘unlikely to take place’ after ‘withdrawals’

Gulf Cup ‘unlikely to take place’ after ‘withdrawals’
Following Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain’s non-response to organizers’ invitations, it seems highly unlikely KSA’s Salem Al-Dawsari and the UAE’s Omar Abdulrahman (left) will feature in the tournament next month. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2017

Gulf Cup ‘unlikely to take place’ after ‘withdrawals’

Gulf Cup ‘unlikely to take place’ after ‘withdrawals’

LONDON: Gulf Cup organizers said Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain had “withdrawn” from the Qatar-hosted tournament, amid the deepening political crisis in the region.
Tournament bosses said they had received no response from the three federations to questions about their participation in the competition, scheduled to start on Dec. 22.
A deadline for Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to accept a written invitation from the Gulf Cup Football Federation (GCFF) passed earlier this week.
“There was no response to our letter and they are withdrawn from the tournament,” said Jassim Al-Rumaihi, GCFF general secretary.
That was confirmed by an Arab News source at the Saudi Arabia Football Federation who said they had not responded to any the organizers’ letters and that the chances of the Gulf Cup taking place were close to zero.
“The Gulf Cup is unlikely to take place this year. Kuwait’s FIFA ban is not lifted yet, which means there are only four teams,” he told Arab News.
When asked whether Saudi Arabia had withdrawn he replied: “No, we never responded to any letters from the Gulf Cup organizers.”
The de facto withdrawals brings to a close the debate over whether the tournament could take place in the current climate in the Gulf. Doubts have hung over the Gulf Cup because of a bitter dispute involving Qatar and the Anti-Terror Quartet.
The crisis erupted on Jun. 5 when Qatar was politically and economically boycotted by the quartet over its alleged support for terrorist groups and relations with Iran.
The 2022 World Cup host denies the charges.
Yesterday’s decision, taken at a meeting in Doha, and confirmation by the SAFF means the tournament has become the first high-profile sporting victim of the diplomatic dispute.
The only chance, and it remains a slim one, that it will go ahead now rests with Kuwait, which has been given a Nov. 30 deadline to say if they will play in the competition.
If that deadline cannot be met, then the tournament will be canceled, said the GCFF.
Although Kuwait is not central in the political dispute — it has acted as a regional mediator since the crisis began back in June — its football association has its own problems and remains suspended by FIFA, which means it is unclear if its team is eligible to play in the tournament.
“We have given 15 days for Kuwait to solve their problems,” said Al-Rumaihi.
“We can make a tournament with five teams.”
If the Gulf Cup goes ahead on Dec. 22 it will be played between just Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Kuwait and Yemen.
Qatar are the current title holders.
Usually played every two years, the Gulf Cup was originally meant to be hosted by Kuwait in 2016 but was moved to Qatar because of the FIFA ban.
Any cancelation of the Gulf Cup could cause huge embarrassment to Qatar , as it continues its $500 million-a-week preparations for 2022.
Yesterday’s news follows hot on the heels of allegations this week that a former FIFA official and head of the Argentinian FA until his death in 2014, Julio Grondona, had accepted at least $1 million in bribes to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup.