Doha/Gulf Times and Agencies
*Regional football tournament to be held from Nov 26 -Dec 8 in Qatar
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will participate in the Gulf Cup football tournament in Qatar, organisers said Wednesday, a major positive development in the two-year-long Gulf crisis.Last updated: November 14 2019 12:20 AM
The trio will join hosts Qatar and visitors Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and Yemen for the tournament, the new draw of which will be held Thursday evening.
The regional football showpiece will now be held from November 26 to December 8, the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation (AGCFF) said at a press conference. According to the previous schedule, the tournament was to begin on November 24 and end on December 6.
The announcement came after a meeting of the Executive Committee of the AGCFF held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel under the chairmanship of His Excellency Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed al-Thani.
"(We) officially accepted Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain's participation in the 24th Gulf Cup in Doha," said Jassim al-Shukali, vice president of the AGCFF in front of a banner depicting logos of the participating federations.
The Saudi Arabian Football Federation earlier said that it had accepted the invitation to take part in the tournament.
"The Saudi Football Federation has received a letter from the Arab Gulf Cup federation, which includes a renewal of their invitation to participate in the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup championship," it said in a statement on Twitter.
"The (Saudi) federation has decided to agree to participate."
In separate but near verbatim statements, the football federations of the UAE and Bahrain announced that they too will take part.
The boycotting countries did not participate in the previous Gulf Cup two years ago, which was originally scheduled to be held in Qatar just a few months after the blockade began.
But they took part when the tournament was subsequently moved to Kuwait.
At the press conference, Jassim al-Rumaihi, the general secretary of the AGCFF, praised the three countries for their ‘positive’ response.
“We highly value the positive response from the three nations which means that the tournament will now be held in its original format with the teams divided into two groups,” he said.
He added that the three newly-added nations and their fans will be whole-heartedly welcomed in Qatar.
“As far as I know we have no restrictions on allowing fans from all the three nations to enter. If there are any issues the State of Qatar will make the necessary arrangements,” said al-Rumaihi.
He added: "The tournament will be strong as all the top teams in the region will be participating. Everybody wants to win the trophy and we are sure that the Organising Committee headed by Saoud al-Mohannadi are eager to put up a great show.”
The AGCFF also added in a press release that invitation letters were sent to the Saudi, UAE and Bahrain federations as “an attempt to reunite brothers under the umbrella of the championship, which has always succeeded in strengthening the bonds of brotherhood and love among the people of the region.
“Despite the various (political) obstacles, the tournament proves that our Gulf is one.”
The winners of the event will walk away with a whopping $2mn, in addition to the $1mn which all teams will receive for participating.
This is the fourth time Qatar will be hosting the tournament. They have twice won the event on home soil – in 1992 and 2004 – and will be aiming for a glorious double in 2019, having lifted the AFC Asian Cup in February.
The Arabian Gulf Cup was conceptualised in the 1960s, with the first edition taking place in 1970. Kuwait became the first country to win the title after defeating Bahrain.