by David HARDING/AFP
2 minute read
30 Nov 2017
1:40 pm

Gulf Cup deadline pushed back over Qatar crisis

by David HARDING/AFP

A November 30 deadline to announce if the Qatar-hosted Gulf Cup will take place amid an ongoing regional political crisis has been pushed back, an official said Thursday.

The final decision will now be made early next week following a meeting on December 4 — just 18 days before the tournament is scheduled to start — Jassim al-Rumaihi, Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation (AGCFF) general secretary, told AFP.

“We wait until Monday for a final decision on this matter,” Rumaihi said.

Despite the desperate attempts of AGCFF officials, it looks increasingly likely that the competition will become the first high-profile sporting victim of the political uncertainties surrounding Qatar and its neighbours.

Major doubts have hung over the Gulf Cup because of a bitter dispute involving Qatar and its neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain.

The crisis erupted on June 5 when Qatar was politically and economically isolated by a quartet of neighbouring countries over its alleged support for terrorist groups and warming relations with Saudi Arabia’s great regional rival, Shiite-dominated Iran.

The 2022 World Cup host denies the allegations.

Monday’s expected final decision will come almost six months to the day that the destabilising row began.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were ‘withdrawn’ from the eight-team tournament after failing to respond to a written invitation to take part.

Saudi Arabia is the only nation in the region which has qualified for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.

The slim chance that the Gulf Cup will go ahead rests with Kuwait.

Although Kuwait is not part of the political dispute — it has acted as a regional mediator since the crisis began back in June — its football association has its own separate problems and remains suspended by FIFA, which means it is unclear if its team is eligible to play in the tournament.

The AGCFF, based in Doha, have said they would go ahead with a five-team tournament.

If the Gulf Cup begins on December 22 it will be played between Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Kuwait and Yemen.

Qatar are the current 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 cancellation of the Gulf Cup could cause embarrassment to Qatar, as it continues its $500 million-a-week preparations for 2022, and serve as a warning to the political uncertainties surrounding its World Cup.