Organisers of the Gulf Cup of Nations have given Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain until November 13 to decide on whether they will compete in the national team football tournament amid their ongoing diplomatic dispute with host country, Qatar.
The three countries ended diplomatic, trade and travel ties with Qatar in June, accusing it of sponsoring hardline Islamist groups. Qatar, host of the 2022 Fifa World Cup, is due to stage the Gulf Cup from December 22 to January 8 and has denied such allegations.
The tournament has been placed in doubt due to current relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE. A decision on the countries’ participation is expected next week.
“We have sent a letter to all of these countries and we are going to set a deadline of November 13 to participate in this tournament,” Jassim al-Rumaihi, general secretary of the Gulf Cup Football Federation, told the AFP news agency.
Al-Rumaihi said that the event would go ahead if the three nations withdraw, but only if Kuwait competes. This year’s Gulf Cup had been due to take place in 2016 in Kuwait, but the country had its hosting rights stripped after a ban was placed on its football association by Fifa, the sport’s global governing body. Kuwait remains banned by Fifa.
“If they (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE), say no, we will have to wait for Kuwait,” Al-Rumaihi added. “To have this tournament we have to have five teams. We are waiting for Kuwait to solve the problem.”
The Gulf Cup was last staged in 2014 in Saudi Arabia, with Qatar claiming its third title with a 2-1 win over the host nation in the final.