Last night saw the conclusion of the 22nd edition of the Gulf Cup in what looked like a perfect story ending in an anticlimax for the hosts, Saudi Arabia. Their opponents however, Qatar, claimed the trophy in a manner that could be classified as an “underdog”. The ‘Annabi’ drew three times in the first round, and beat Oman in the semifinals. Qatar set an example of determination by being the only country in the tournament that was always chasing the lead yet never ended a match in loss. There were many negatives and positives throughout the two-week tournament, so here’s the top 5 losers of 22nd Gulf Cup to begin with, which will be followed up by the top 5 winners in another article very soon.
Kuwait National Team
Things looked bright for Kuwait as they were the first team in the tournament to claim three points when Fahad Al-Enezi struck a late winner to claim the win against Iraq. The ‘Azrag’ managed to strengthen their group position further when they staged a come back from two goals behind against the UAE to equalise before the end of the first half. Kuwait only needed a draw in the last round to guarantee qualification to the second round, but what happened next was nothing short of extraordinary. Oman thrashed the ten time Gulf Cup winners with five goals unanswered. The leaders of group B looked disoriented, fatigued, and way out of their league. Captain Nawaf Al-Khaldi left the match on a stretcher after three goals had been scored, only for Kuwaiti fans to claim that he was faking in order to avoid further embarrassment.
The tournament was over for Kuwait, but the attack on this display was just beginning. Kuwait media was out on all fronts, not leaving a stone unturned in finding the reason behind the most decorated team in the history of the tournament exiting with their tails between their legs. The head coach Jorvan Vieira announced his resignation from his post, but his decision is yet to be finalised by the FA.
Talal Al Mehteb (Kuwait national team media coordinator)
Media coordinator of the Kuwait national team Talal Al Mehteb went out on a limb after Kuwait had managed to go from two goals down to level pegging, and also converted a challenging remark made by UAE FA president Yousuf Al Serkal into a personal attack. Al Mehteb criticized Al Serkal’s Arabic language skills and advised him to reeducate himself in order to express himself better. The statement wasn’t met lightly as the Gulf Cup committee almost immediately removed Al Mehteb from the tournament. Like Kuwait was in need of more negative media attention, yet their media coordinator was the one that added more fuel to the fire.
The Kuwaiti FA further disgraced itself after requesting an appeal for the decision of the removal of Al Mehteb yet the committee assured the Kuwait FA that the decision was definite, relaying the fact that such actions will not be tolerated. Al Mehteb is yet to issue an official apology to Al Serkal or any other party that have been affected by his words or actions in the tournament.
The Saudi home crowd
One thing that most outside observers of Saudi football could agree upon before the Gulf Cup began was that the country’s crowd attendance was unmatched in the region. Whether it was for club or country, the stadium would be filled to its full capacity hours ahead of kickoff. The organizers and guests were left astonished by what they witnessed in the opening ceremony of the tournament. Putting it nicely the ceremony looked like a final rehearsal more than it was the real thing, as 80% of the stadium’s blue seats were left vacant for all to see in the backdrop of the ceremony and opening match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The organizing committee tried to repair the damage by announcing that all games were free of charge to attend, yet nothing changed. BEIN sports host Hichem Khalsi was so astonished by the attendance that when asked on-air by a reporter from the channel of how the atmosphere was in King Fahd Stadium for the last round of group B his reply was: “what atmosphere?! Do you see anybody here?” Pointing to the familiar sight of empty blue seats in the capital. The home crowd managed to fill up the stadium in the final, yet it was a case of far too little far too late.
Juan Roman Lopez Caro (Saudi Arabia head coach)
Most of the country – and even others – agreed unanimously that the sound of the final whistle would also see the end of coach Lopez Caro’s. The Spaniard, placed in-charge as a caretaker in the aftermath of coach Frank Rijkaard’s sacking in January 2013, managed to maintain his position by merely being slightly more successful than the Dutchman. The team was progressing in the right direction, although slowly and gradually and without a proper challenge in the way. Saudi Arabia managed to qualify for the Asian Cup, with the Gulf Cup being the true test ahead of the tournament in Australia. The stage was set for Lopez Caro for the taking, yet he only gave the Saudis hope before destroying it with his conservative tactics and substitutions in the final. His choices were questionable throughout the tournament, yet the one that stood out the most was his late substitution of striker Naif Hazazzi for striker Nasser Al Shamrani in the final while trailing 2-1 to Qatar. Usually managers with nothing to lose in the dying minutes of a knockout match throw in as many attacking weapons as possible, yet Lopez Caro preferred to see off the match with one striker alone. The future of the Spaniard is unclear in the time being, yet it’s back to the drawing board with or without him.
Khalid Al Busaidi (President of Oman FA/VP of AFC Referee’s Committee)
The Oman FA president wasn’t thrilled with Saudi referee Marai Al Awaji’s performance in Oman’s match against the UAE in the first round of the Gulf Cup. Al Busaidi – who is also vice president of the referee’s committee of the Asian Football Confederation – said that Al Awaji’s performance puts his FIFA badge in question, and hoping that the Saudi ref never officiates a match involving Oman again. What Al Busaidi failed to realize was that a man in his position should not be accusing one of his confederation’s referees for all to see. The integrity of the committee will be put into question if anything is to happen for Al Awaji, whether or not Al Awaji commits any wrong in the future. Unsurprisingly, Marai Al Awaji was removed from the tournament shortly after Al Busaidi’s TV appearance and tweet in which he expressed his displeasure with Al Awaji. A back in forth through media followed as well. Both men’s positions and respective future’s are now in the balance and only because a man of power in the Asian refereeing body chose to set an unprofessional example of how to deal with his frustration.