DOHA (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain will not take part in a Qatar-hosted football tournament for Arab nations scheduled for next month after missing a deadline to confirm their participation, organisers said on Friday.
The three countries 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 this.
The Gulf Nations Cup, which is held every two years and rotates location, usually involves Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain as well as this year’s hosts Qatar, and Kuwait, Iraq, Oman and Yemen.
A ban imposed by world football body FIFA on Kuwait’s national football federation in 2015 over alleged government interference has already raised a question mark over December’s event — billed as an early organisational test for Qatar as it prepares to be the first Arab country to host the World Cup in 2022.
The three missing Gulf countries “did not confirm their participation in the tournament and did not respond to the letters sent to them by the Secretariat with a Nov. 13 deadline,” Jasim al-Rumehi, Secretary-General of the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation (AGCFF), said in a statement.
Last month the UAE Football Association’s president, denying that his country’s boycott was related to the crisis between Gulf states, said the tournament should not go ahead unless Kuwait’s ban was lifted.
FIFA has said 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.”
Rumehi said that, if the FIFA ban was not lifted, a new date would be set for the tournament, which requires the participation of at least five teams under its current format.
Reporting by Hadeel Al Sayegh; writing by Rania El Gamal; editing by John Stonestreet