Iraq FA sorry for Gulf Cup brawl involving Kuwaiti delegation

Football association chief apologises 'for the difficulties encountered in entering the stadium'

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 25th Gulf Cup in Basra, Iraq. Getty
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The Kuwaiti Football Association has filed a formal complaint accusing Iraq of “poor organisation” after a brawl broke out during the Gulf Cup opening ceremony, forcing the Kuwaiti delegation to leave the stadium.

Videos shared on Friday night showed several men arguing and shoving each other in the VIP section at Basra International Stadium.

The Kuwaiti delegation was confronted outside the VIP section by Iraqi organisers and security, according to reports.

As a result, Kuwait Olympic Committee president Sheikh Fahad Nasser Sabah Al Ahmad could not enter the venue, Kuwaiti press reported.

He was representing the Gulf country's Emir, Sheikh Nawaf.

“The Kuwait Football Association expresses its strong dissatisfaction with the poor organisation of the opening ceremony of the 25th Gulf Cup in Basra, and the resulting mass stampede and overcrowding that prevented the entry of the representative of His Highness, the Emir of the country, Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah, may God protect and preserve him,” it said.

The president of the Kuwait Football Association and his delegation withdrew from the opening ceremony “in solidarity” with the Emir's representative, who could not attend for safety reasons, the reports said.

Matches took place in the city of Basra, near Kuwait, as war-scarred Iraq hosted the regional event for the first time in more than four decades.

The country was long banned from international football and is counting on the tournament to improve its image.

Kuwait said its national team would continue to participate in the tournament after it received security and safety assurances from Iraq.

Iraqi Football Association president Adnan Dirjal apologised to the Kuwaiti delegation for the difficulties it encountered when it arrived at the stadium on Friday night.

“The Iraqi Federation, as well as those in charge of organising the championship, will take into account the necessity of avoiding what happened to ensure that the organisational process appears in the best form, starting with the matches of the second day of the championship,” Mr Dirjal said.

The Foreign Ministers of Iraq and Kuwait spoke on Sunday to discuss the incident.

“Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fouad Hussein confirmed that what happened — in terms of organisational matters during the opening of Gulf 25 — will not affect the strength of the relationship between Iraq and the state of Kuwait, especially at the sports level,” Iraq's Foreign Ministry said.

Updated: January 09, 2023, 9:37 AM