The Gulf Cup Returns to Iraq After 44 Years

The 25th edition of The Arabian Gulf Cup is currently underway in Iraq

The Gulf Cup Returns to Iraq After 44 Years
Yaseen Dockrat

The Arabian Gulf Cup kicked off its 25th edition on Friday, and to mark its silver jubilee the tournament has returned to Iraq after an absence of 44 years. Basra served as the host city for the opening ceremony and the first game that saw Iraq take on Oman. The match ended in a stalemate, but the occasion was momentous. 

Iraq has been in the news for many different reasons in recent times. For decades the country has been undergoing a period of instability, but it seems that Iraq has now overcome its difficulties and is moving in to a new era. Hosting the Gulf Cup for the first time in four decades is a message to the region, and the rest of the world that Iraq has returned to the regional stage.

Gulf Cup

The occasion marks the second time Iraq has hosted the tournament, which was inaugurated in 1970. Iraq has won the competition three times, and finished as runners-up twice, despite only entering the tournament 6 years after its inauguration and being banned from participating in it between 1992 and 2004 for political reasons. 

“It is a step forward to retain Iraq’s normal position in the fields of sport, culture and society,” Basra’s Governor Asaad Al Edidani said. “It is a message to the whole world that we are capable.”

The tournament features eight regional countries and runs from January 6 until January 19. Tournament champions Bahrain will fight to retain their title against host nation Iraq, as well as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Yemen. The teams are split into two groups of four, with the top two sides from each group advancing to the semi-finals. 

Iraqis from all over the country have made their way to Basra to partake in the historic occasion, and witness Basra, and Iraq appear in the global press for positive reasons. The country was meant to host the 2022 World Cup Qualifier between Iraq and the United Arab Emirates on March 24 last year, but the game was moved to Saudi Arabia after a missile attack on Erbil 11 days before the it was due to kick off. A successful Gulf Cup could see Iraq placed back on the sporting map, which could persuade FIFA to allow the country to once again host football matches.

Featured image: Ayman Yaqoob/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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