Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, president of the UAE Football Association, has congratulated Iraq on winning the right to host next year’s Gulf Cup.
Basra was confirmed on Monday as host of the 25th edition of the Gulf competition following an extraordinary meeting of the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation, which was held via videoconference. The heads of the football associations of the GCC countries unanimously agreed on Basra.
The tournament, expected to take place next January, will feature hosts Iraq, the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. Three-time winners of the trophy, Iraq have staged the tournament only once before, in 1979.
“We are happy that Iraq has obtained the right to host, as the approval came unanimously, and we hope that the Basra Governorate will be ready in all respects to receive this Gulf sporting event and to meet the requirements for hosting,” Sheikh Rashid said.
“The people of Iraq are eager about this precious tournament; they are athletes with distinction. They also are the most important reason for the success and development of Iraqi football. Iraq is the cradle of civilisation and enlightenment.”
Iraq went on to become Gulf champions when they last hosted, the first time they won the tournament. More success followed in 1984 and 1988, with their best result since coming in 2013, when they finished runners-up to the UAE. At the most recent Gulf Cup, held in Qatar, Iraq reached the semi-finals only to lose on penalties to eventual champions Bahrain.
On Monday, Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said Basra hosting the tournament would be "a sign of Iraq's recovery" after years of conflict and political and economic crises, while vowing that the Iraqi government would do everything to ensure a successful Gulf Cup.
Sheikh Rashid said the UAE FA would “put all its capabilities and experiences in the service of Iraqi football”.
In his speech on Monday, Sheikh Rashid said: “Sport is going through great challenges in the world at this time, especially the most popular game, football. Our region is part of this vast world and challenges can only be overcome with more cooperation and solidarity and through activating initiatives and creative ideas. Cooperation paves the way for us to success and helps us achieve our common goals.
"The Arab Gulf Cup Football Championship was one of the most prominent competitions in the region, and it was amazingly followed by fans. The competition was exciting and valued by the Gulf fans. Also, this special tournament was a link for cooperation and harmony, and it was an enjoyable Gulf celebration. Its events remained immortal in the minds of the people of the Arabian Gulf.
“We must all work to restore the spirit to this championship, because it carries our common Gulf identity. Therefore, we need to work hard in order to achieve this goal and we have to stand with any country that has the honour to host this Gulf football event, because as I said, ‘The Gulf Championship represents our identity’.”