RIYADH: The Thai national team will compete as a guest nation at the 10th West Asian Football Federation Championship for men, which kicks off in the UAE on March 20.
They will join 11 WAFF-member teams at the competition: the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. The final will take place on April 2
Khalil Al-Salem, the secretary-general of WAFF, welcomed the participation of Thailand in the tournament, which he described as one of the largest in the region.
“The invitation of the Thai national team comes within the framework of the West Asian Federation's policy of openness with all civil unions in Asia, and the consolidation of concepts of joint cooperation with them and mutual support,” he said.
With 12 teams competing, this year’s championship will be the biggest to date, Al-Salem said, which confirms its continued growth and success. He thanked the UAE Football Association for its work in hosting the tournament and said he is confident it will proceed smoothly and be a success. He added that WAFF is working closely with authorities in the UAE as the tournament approaches, and details of the draw for the event will be announced soon.
The inaugural WAFF Championship took place in Jordan in 2000. It was dedicated to the memory of the country’s King Hussein, who had died a year earlier, and the trophy presented to the winners continues to bear his name.
Iranian won the first tournament and hold the record for the most wins, with four, but are no longer members of WAFF and so do not compete. The second tournament took place in Syria in 2002, with Iraq claiming their first and only title. Iran were hosts in 2004 and 2008, and won both tournaments in addition to the 2007 competition, which was hosted by Jordan.
Jordan was again the host in 2010. Kuwait lifted the trophy and then hosted the competition in 2012, when Syria took the title. Qatar hosted and won the next tournament, which was played in December 2013 and January 2014, and reigning champions Bahrain won in 2019 when Iraq hosted the event.
Meanwhile, Thailand have also reached the final of the ASEAN Football Federation Championship, in which they will take on Vietnam over two legs on Jan. 13 and 16.