Late entrants give big boost to Gulf Cup
Tournament dates changed to November 26-December 8; fresh draw and new stadiums to be announced on Thursday
The Arabian Gulf Cup Football Federation (AGCFF) has welcomed the decision of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to take part in the 24th Gulf Cup in Qatar, terming it as the coming together of “all brothers under one roof.”
The three nations had earlier decided to stay away from the tournament, set to kick off later this month, but in a late night development on Tuesday, they accepted ‘renewed’ invitation from the AGCFF, ensuring the event will go ahead at full-strength.
The presence of the three nations will make it an eight-team event, instead of the five-team affair planned earlier. It has also necessitated a change in dates, with the tournament now taking place from November 26 to December 8, instead of the previous November 24-December 6 schedule.
The presence of Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal in the AFC Champions League final second-leg on November 24 had a say in the decision to change the dates.
Addressing a press conference, Jassim Al Shukali, the AGCFF vice president and Jassim Al Rumaihi, AGCFF secretary general, said the tournament draw, featuring two groups of four teams each, would be made on Thursday.
“We value the decision of the three countries to accept our invitation. It was a final attempt to reunite the siblings under the umbrella of the championships — an event that has been a means of strengthening the bonds of brotherhood and love among the people of the region,” said Al Shukali, addressing a press conference after the executive committee meeting of AGCFF.
“Despite various obstacles, the Gulf Cup remains a constant confirmation that our Gulf is one,” he added.
As per the original schedule, Khalifa Stadium was to host all the matches but with new teams coming in, the games could be spread over more venues, Al Rumaihi said. “After the draw is made on Thursday, we will take a call on the venues also,” he said.
Al Shukali said fans from all the countries would be welcome to attend the tournament. “Our doors have always been open. We will not be putting any impediment in the fans’ path,” he said.
Al Shukali, speaking at the tournament draw last month, had ruled out the inclusion of more teams but he said the situation had changed since then. “We had made all attempts to bring the three countries to the tournament but did not succeed. Now, an extraordinary situation has developed and the latest decision by the three countries adds value to the tournament,” he said.