- Thousands of fans from all generations fill stadia in Kuwait City
- FIFA President takes in Gulf Cup's opening matches
- Tournament dates back to 1970
The Arabian Gulf Cup kicked off on 22 December to a packed crowd at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait City, as the tournament's most successful side stage the 23rd edition.
With ten past triumphs to their name, hosts Kuwait opened the tournament at the 63,00-seater arena against Saudi Arabia - with the FIFA World Cup™-bound Green Falcons edging the home side 2-1. United Arab Emirates followed, securing a slender 1-0 win over Oman thanks to a strike from Ali Mabkhout - fresh from his exploits at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017.
Kuwait Stadium housed day two of proceedings, seeing defending champions and 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar romp to a 4-0 win over Yemen before a late goal saw Iraq share the spoils with Bahrain.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino, in attendance at all four opening games, was impressed by both the numbers and diversity of the football-loving fans in attendance. comprising large numbers of children, fathers and mothers.
“It was a great honour for me to attend the opening games of the 2017 Gulf Cup in Kuwait,” said President Infantino. "This tournament embraces the spirit of sportsmanship and is a great example of the values FIFA and football strive to spread all around the world.”
Originally scheduled to take place in Qatar, the tournament moved to Kuwait, accommodating all eight of the participating nations.
"It was a great pleasure to see how happy and welcoming all of the fans were of this historic tournament," said the FIFA President. "The initiative to move the 2017 Gulf Cup from Qatar to Kuwait to celebrate this event is a strong and symbolic sign. In this respect, I would like to congratulate and thank again the Qatari football authorities for their honourable gesture.
"I would also like to thank the teams of Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen for participating in this tournament. The solidarity and friendship shown by all illustrates once again the power of football to unite people across borders. To have all eight teams participating in Kuwait sends a very powerful message to the world,” he concluded.
Eight teams challenge for title
The competition is contested by the eight members of the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation, namely: Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen. The teams are divided into two groups of four.
Group A: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman
Group B: Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq
Teams play one another within their group once for a total of 3 group stage matches per team. The two teams that top their respective groups qualify for the semi-finals which will be played on 2 January. The tournament concludes with the Final on 5 January 2018.
The first edition of the tournament dates back to 1970. With Kuwait leading the overall standings with ten titles, they are followed by Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Qatar, all having triumphed three times. Qatar won the latest edition in 2014, defeating tournament hosts Saudi Arabia in the final.
The 15 matches will be hosted at two stadiums, both located in the host city: Jaber International Stadium (63,000 capacity) and Kuwait Stadium (16,000 capacity).