Qatar to play UAE in Doha amid signs of thaw in Gulf dispute

Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain to take part in this year’s Gulf Cup in Qatar, raising hopes of end to Gulf dispute.

Qatar to play UAE, Yemen and Iraq in Gulf Cup tournament in Doha
In Group B, Oman was joined by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain in the Gulf Cup group stages [Al Jazeera]

Asian Champions and hosts Qatar are drawn against the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen and Iraq in Group A at the 24th Gulf Cup to be held in Doha from November 26 to December 8.

Defending champions Oman are in Group B where they will be joined by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain in the group stages.

The rescheduled draw took place in Doha on Thursday evening, after Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain confirmed they would take part in this year’s tournament, reversing an earlier decision to boycott the event.

The UAE Football Association said in a statement on Tuesday that it decided to participate in the tournament, which has traditionally featured all the Gulf nations, “after receiving a new invitation from the Arab Gulf Cup Federation”.

Similar statements were issued by the Saudi and Bahraini football associations, announcing their participation after receiving new invitations.

The Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation said it “appreciated the response to the invitations”, which were “presented as an attempt to reunite the friends under the umbrella of the tournament”, QNA, Qatar’s state-run news agency, reported.

“[The tournament] has always been one of the successful means to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood and love among the peoples of the region, which underlined its ability to overcome the challenges under the circumstances the region is undergoing,” QNA reported.

Ticket sales

With the addition of the three nations and subsequent rescheduled tournament draw, tickets to the matches would have to be redistributed. 

The website of the Gulf Cup 2019 issued a statement saying “We are pleased with the enrollment of the three teams; KSA, UAE, Bahrain. Further announcements will follow about when ticket sales will start again.”

The three countries had previously said they would boycott the event in line with their more than two-year-old land, air and sea blockade against Qatar.

Along with Egypt, the three countries in June 2017 accused Doha of “supporting terrorism”, an allegation Qatar has consistently and vehemently denied.

Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani told reporters on Tuesday there had been “some discussion about the ongoing Gulf dispute”.

“There are American efforts, which Qatar appreciates, to preserve the unity of the GCC and to return it back to what it is used to be,” he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council comprising Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.

“Qatar is always open to dialogue and has expressed its readiness to engage in an unconditional dialogue based on mutual respect, non-intervention in the international affairs of other states, and respecting for the sovereignty of other states,” he added.

The previous Arabian Gulf Cup, two years ago, was originally scheduled to be held in Qatar but was moved to Kuwait in the aftermath of the blockade.

The tournament will take place at the Khalifa International Stadium, a 40,000 capacity air-conditioned venue in the Qatari capital, Doha.

This is the fourth time Qatar will be hosting the regional event.

In 2017, Oman won its second title by beating the UAE in the final on penalties.

Source: Al Jazeera