A brawl ahead of the opening ceremony of the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup in Iraq forced a shocked Kuwaiti delegation to leave the stadium.
اشتباكات في منطقة كبار الشخصيات ببطولة كاس الخليج!— Gorgeous (@gorgeous4ew) January 6, 2023
A video shared on social media showed men in the VIP section at the Basra International Stadium arguing and pushing one another while others attempted to separate them.
According to media reports, the chaos erupted shortly after the Kuwaiti delegation arrived in the stadium.
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Abdulaziz al-Samhan, a member of the board of directors of the Kuwait Football Association (KFA), told Kuwaiti media that the delegation left after Sheikh Fahad al-Nasser, who represents the country’s emir, couldn’t enter the stadium due to the chaos.
“We left after we heard [al-Nasser] couldn’t enter… This upset us and we [walked out] in solidarity [with him], and we’re currently at the hotel,” Samhan said.
Samhan also said that he was robbed as people jostled while he walked from the stadium’s entrance toward the VIP section, adding that when he sat on the chair, he realized that his pocket had been torn with a sharp object and his wallet was missing.
Meanwhile, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai cited sources as saying that rumors about the withdrawal of Kuwait’s national team from the tournament were false, adding that the team will play against Qatar as planned on January 7.
The eight-nation Arabian Gulf Cup will see teams from the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - as well as Yemen and Iraq compete.
It’s the first time since 1979 that turmoil-wracked Iraq hosts the tournament.
جانب من العروض الألعاب النارية بافتتاح كأس الخليجpic.twitter.com/W0HFC7Q85h— Screen Mix (@ScreenMix) January 6, 2023
Despite the brawl, the matches were held as scheduled on Friday and saw the host, Iraq, tie with Oman (0-0) and Saudi Arabia winning against Yemen (2-0).
FIFA President Gianni Infantino who attended the opening match said it was great to be at the “prestigious” tournament.
“It was great to have attended the opening ceremony and the opening game of the 2023 Arabian Gulf Cup in Basra, Iraq between Iraq and Oman,” Infantino said.
He added that he was glad to see such matches being held in Iraq after decades of conflict.
“I am so happy that competitive football has finally returned to Iraq, a real football loving country, even more so with such a prestigious tournament,” he said.
“I would like to congratulate Iraq, the Iraq Football Association and the Arab Gulf Cup Football Federation for the warm welcome and the all the organizational efforts.
“Tournaments like this are fundamental to making football truly global and showing that football unites the world. FIFA has to be and is present!” Infantino added.
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