Only a few weeks ago, members were assigned to the various committees of the recently formed Gulf Football Union under the guidance of the elected President – Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Thani who is also the boss of the Qatari Football Association.
While these meetings were in sessions, a lot had been expected, especially at the level of development of game. The lack of which, is hurting the nations across the GCC.
However, a statement issued on twitter by Dr. Abdullah Burgan – Head of the Professional Committee at the Saudi Football Federation – has generated quite a bit of interest and enthusiasm across regional fans.
Dr. Burgan had hinted of discussions taking place at a possibility of considering categorising players of and across the GCC nations as a single nationality without having them to be regarded as foreign professionals. If successfully passed and implemented, this would allow for the free movement of players while exposing them to different styles of the game within the region. Furthermore, this will help nurture the sport in lines similar to that of how clubs in Europe function which contributed in the development of the game in neighbouring continent.
The clubs and their respective players, within developed nations, to a certain point, have benefited from players from Eastern Europe while the technical capability of the squads of the emerging nations (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Poland, Albania, etc) have been positively impacted as a result of these players participating in a stronger European league. All made possible with the help of free movement among the European Union.
Whereas, in this part of the world, the evolution of the game has been quite sluggish, even with the presence of two key factors – an incessant levels of financial resources or appreciation among the region’s youth available for its growth. Yet, it would be right to assume that things are changing, be it at a slow-moving pace.
In this age of globalization which has impacted football as well, we in the GCC have not invested in the concept of free movement of players between the countries in the region. Hence, the consideration of this concept could not have appeared at any better timing. The need exists as the region has slowly begun to make some noise at the continental level.
As exciting as it sounds, the most significant element the committee will need to take into account is keeping track of the proportionality of the players moving across GCC.
On a pro-rata basis, the varying percentage between GCC nations in regards to its football playing population (combination of clubs and players) will play an importance. For example, the number of registered players in Saudi Arabia transcends those of its five neighbours (Kuwait, Oman, UAE, Qatar and Bahrain).
Hence, a point to note is that players moving between the states should be in proportion to the number of clubs and players which, in the above mentioned scenario, would naturally translate into the transfer of a lot more Saudi players (in abundance) to the five nations than vice versa with the intention that this will contribute in raising the overall standards of GCC football.
On the flip side, this could also impact inversely as players might not be too keen on moving to leagues that are not considered strong or financially secure – the likes of Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain. An athlete would always look out for his own best interest in the game – echoing the need to participate in a stronger league with good financial benefits. Though UAE and Qatar tend to be quite generous to players in terms of salaries, the league is not as strong as what one may see in Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, as the game changes, it would not come as a surprise when Emirati and Qatari players move to Saudi Arabia in order to search for a new challenges and excitement, all the while hoping to raise their own standards.
Besides the glamor of the idea, a very important thought to be considered here is the regulation of financial contracts as we are well aware of the differing levels of financial solvency in the region. Clubs from Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman will not be able to compete with financial might of the other three hence will find it difficult to court players across, which can be observed in current times.
Perhaps a cap system, similar to that in the United States could be introduced but regardless the very thought of free movement of GCC players is one which is exciting.