Qatar Gulf Cup boycott is over Kuwait's FIFA ban, UAE FA says

DUBAI (Reuters) - A Qatar-hosted football tournament for Arab nations should not go ahead unless Kuwait's FIFA ban is lifted, the UAE Football Association's president said on Tuesday, denying that his country's boycott was related to the crisis between Gulf states.

Qatar is hosting in December the Gulf Nations Cup, a tournament that usually involves Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen.

At the competition's draw in Qatar last month, which was boycotted by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, organisers said the UAE and Bahrain had requested the tournament be postponed.

Neither country's representatives replied to Reuters' requests for explanation of their absence at the time.

UAE FA President Marwan bin Ghalaita told Reuters in Dubai on Tuesday that his federation has informed organisers that "the Gulf Cup cannot be played without Kuwait", adding that the request was "nothing political".

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar in June, including banning their citizens from visiting the fellow Gulf Arab state, over accusations that Qatar supports terrorism. Doha denies the charges.

FIFA banned Kuwait’s national football federation in 2015 over alleged government interference and said recently that the suspension would be lifted "only when the Kuwait Football Association (KFA) and its members (the clubs) are able to carry out their activities and obligations independently".

Asked if the UAE would compete in Qatar if Kuwait's FIFA ban was lifted, Bin Ghalaita said: "If Kuwait played, this would solve a lot of things".

The Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation (AGCFF) has said the tournament would go ahead, though at least five teams are needed under the competition's current format.

The tournament, which rotates hosts, could be an early test for Qatar which has spent billions of dollars preparing to be the first Arab country to host the World Cup in 2022.

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell/Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)

Source Reuters

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