On 21st June 1982, Kuwaiti football witnessed the unthinkable. Prior to that the objective of the nation’s first ever appearance in the World Cup was being carried out as planned – not to be humiliated at the hands of stronger teams. That was until Kuwait came faced the French in the second game of the Group stages in Valladolid, Spain.
Down by three, French midfielder Alain Giresse hammered the fourth past goal keeper Ahmed Al-Tarabulsi, after latching onto a simple ball from Michel Platini. As the French celebrated, the Kuwaiti’s were confused, agitated and immediately challenged this as the team had stopped play after they mistook a loud whistle from the stands to that from the game’s Soviet referee Miroslav Stupar.
What led was a moment of mortification with ex Kuwait Olympic Committee boss and brother of the Emir, Sheikh Fahad Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah gesturing his players to walk off the pitch. Eventually, Al Sabah himself walked on to convince Stupar of the situation who in turn reversed the decision. The French, disconcerted at the reversal, voiced their anxiety leading to a short scuffle between the players. France went on to win the game 4 – 1 but the day was always to be remembered as the moment when Kuwaiti football was embarrassed.
That is until current times.
Last year, in mid-September, FIFA had warned Kuwait Football Association (KFA) to avoid the implementation of a new sports law which threatened the sovereignty of the sports bodies and which subsequently meant that the nation would no longer observe the International Sports Charter. FIFA had also informed the FA that it faced a “suspension if nothing is done by 15 October 2015 to avoid the implementation of the new law due to come into force on 27 October 2015.”
Of course, that did not take place, hence the nation was suspended from all FIFA activities which translated into Kuwait not being able to vote in the recent elections. Neither could it benefit from any FIFA grants, program’s or trainings. The suspension would only be lifted when the KFA and its members (the clubs) agree to carry on without government interference.
Though Kuwait has experienced this in the past having been banned twice previously for a similar issue in 2007 and 2008, the current ban could potentially drive the nation deeper down into a footballing oblivion.
As a result, the nation’s golden generation of footballers who are/were close to qualifying towards the third and final round of Asian World Cup Qualifications as they attempt to travel to Russia in 2018, have suffered.
The suspension resulted in forfeiting crucial World Cup qualifiers against Myanmar (Nov 17th), and upcoming matches against South Korea and Laos. Prior to the ban, Kuwait were sitting second in Group G just behind South Korea. Hence, one could understand how this could hurt the current crop of Kuwaiti footballers and its well-wishers, especially realizing that this could have been their best opportunity to squeeze through from Asia.
FIFA’s disciplinary committee had fined Kuwait approximately $9,932.46 for failing to proceed with the November qualifier against Myanmar, apart from awarding the three points to the latter. The decisions for matches scheduled for tonight (against Laos) and on the 29th (against South Korea) is yet to be publicized but this would be the end of it.
Looking ahead, it is quite clear that Kuwait has unfortunately lost out when it comes to the World Cup in Russia, however their fate is unclear in regards to their ability to participate in the 2019 Asian Cup held in the United Arab Emirates. The Asian Football Confederation re-groups next month in Kuala Lumpur with topics of discussion including the cases of Kuwait and Indonesia – who are on a similar rickety dinghy.
There is still that door further down the tunnel which is slightly open for Kuwait after all. AFC provides an opportunity for nations that did not qualify directly to the Asian Cup through these World Cup qualifiers to enter a 24 team bout broken down by groups in the third round of qualifications towards UAE 2019.
Regardless of all this, we are on the verge of losing a generation of players aspiring to participate, without any fault of their own. With a tough heart, the fans still take to the stadium to watch their countrymen play given the current circumstances. There is no doubt that the blame falls on the FA, the Kuwaiti Sports Authority and Kuwait’s Olympic Committee for their back-and-forth and subsequent disagreements rather than working collectively to stop this international humiliation.
An embarrassment that has affected the aspirations of twenty two men who had put in a lot of effort, for that effort only to be wasted by reckless decision-making.