Thu. Mar 30th, 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman congratulated Iraq’s prime minister Mohammed Al-Sudani on successfully organizing the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup and winning the tournament, the Saudi Press Agency reported early Tuesday.
In a cable, the crown prince expressed his best wishes of progress and success to Iraq and its people.
Iraq defeated Oman 3-2 on Thursday to lift the trophy for the first time since 1988.
The tournament was held in Basra from Jan. 6–19. 
Saudi Arabia has been named as host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup, and incredibly, will hold the continent’s biggest international for the first time.
Less than a month after Cristiano Ronaldo arrived to play for Al-Nassr, and two since the Saudi national team’s fine performances at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the news cements the country’s status as a major hub of the world’s most popular game on the largest continent.
It was always likely that Saudi would get the official nod as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) conducted its congress in Bahrain’s capital of Manama.
Five countries initially threw hats into the ring. Iran and Uzbekistan withdrew and then, after China — still in lockdown and pursuing a zero-COVID-19 policy — relinquished hosting rights from the 2023 tournament, Qatar stepped in as a substitute.
That meant India was the only remaining rival and when New Delhi bowed out in December, it cleared the way for Saudi Arabia to host the tournament for the first time in its history.
It is an idea whose time has finally come.
The pandemic played a wider part, too. With the disruption caused to competitions, both of the club and country variety, during the outbreak, Saudi Arabia proved to be a competent, flexible and reliable host whether the games were World Cup qualifiers or AFC Champions Leagues matches.
The work done, often at short notice, was appreciated by the AFC. After the confederation got its fingers burnt by the situation in China, it is not a surprise that cities such as Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam are seen as safe choices as well as places that deserved a first chance to host Asia’s biggest sporting event.
There is more to it than that, however. The reputation of Saudi Arabian football is higher now than it has maybe ever been. The national team is still basking in the warmth of the global sensation produced with November’s World Cup win over eventual champions Argentina. It was a stunning victory. With a little more luck then Herve Renard’s men could easily have found themselves in the last 16 especially if Salem Al-Dawsari’s penalty had been converted against Poland.
The performances showed that there is talent in the country with the likes of Saud Abdulhamid linked to big moves in Italy and elsewhere.
The Saudi Professional League has long been one of the strongest in Asia but in recent years has grown in strength, depth and stature. There is regularly more than one representative in the latter stages of the Asian Champions League. Al-Hilal are the defending champions — and have won two of the last three — and now have a record number of four continental titles as well as international stars such as Odion Ighalo and Moussa Marega. On Saturday, the Blues kick off a third FIFA Club World Cup campaign in the space of three years.
While there is a growing core of talent in the country, as the World Cup exploits and last June’s U23 Asian Championships triumph have shown, the league is home to some of the best foreign players and coaches in Asian football.
Al-Ittihad have former Tottenham Hotspur boss Nuno Santo in charge and a whole host of talented foreign players including Moroccan marksman Abderrazzak Hamdallah, Egyptian rock Ahmed Hegazi and talented Brazilians such as Igor Coronado and Romarinho.
Al-Shabab tore up the group stage of the Champions League and even second tier Al-Ahli have Pitso Mosimane in charge, the man who has won three African Champions League crowns with Mamelodi Sundowns in his native South Africa and twice with Egyptian giants Al-Ahly. At the moment, the SPL is the most exciting and high-profile domestic competition on the continent.
And that was the case before Ronaldo signed with Al-Nassr. The Portuguese star is one of the best players in the history of the game with five Ballon d’Or awards and the same number of UEFA Champions League titles. It is not just about the talent of the former Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus legend, but the fact that he among the most recognizable people on the planet. His presence has just increased the spotlight shining on Saudi Arabian football.
It all means that the Asian Cup announcement is not only a natural decision, as Saudi Arabian football is in a great place at the moment on the pitch, but also confirms what is happening off the field. The tournament will be the biggest football event ever to take place in the country but there is a sense that there is more to come. The waiting is over and now, preparations can begin.
Riyadh: Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) President Yasser Al-Misehal has been elected as a Member of the FIFA Council at the 33rd AFC Congress 2023 held in Manama, Bahrain today. 
This marks a new milestone for football in the Kingdom as Al-Mishal becomes only the second Saudi elected Member to the prestigious FIFA Council, which is the main governing body of the FIFA organization.
The announcement was made on the same day that Saudi Arabia was confirmed as the host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.
The term will run for four years and this election expected to bring with it new opportunities to the football sphere not only in Saudi Arabia but the Middle East and Asia.
As Morocco looks to launch the FIFA Club World Cup on Wednesday night, it will be almost impossible for Arab fans not to cast their minds back to that golden month of football that was the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
That the intercontinental club tournament is taking place in the very nation that gave us the first Arab or African team to reach the semifinal of World Cup just six weeks ago seems a little too good to be true.
The trio of Arab clubs in Morocco — home club Wydad AC, Saudi’s Al-Hilal and Egypt’s Al-Ahly — will now hope to carry Qatar 2022’s feel-good factor into the next two weeks.
As always for the African and Asian representatives at the Club World Cup, it won’t be easy. Standing in their way are European champions Real Madrid, Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo of Brazil, CONCACAF’s Seattle Sounders FC from the US and Oceana’s Auckland City of New Zealand.
But thanks to the heroes of the Arab national teams in Doha, these obstacles are no longer ones to be dreaded, more one to be attacked.
For a start, African champions Wydad will have high hopes of emulating their national heroes in front of their own fans.
Keep an eye out for Ayman El-Hassouni, one of the team’s most influential stars and its attacking mastermind.
The 27-year-old is having an excellent season, forming a strong midfield partnership with Yahya Gebran and contributing six goals in 14 matches.
Wydad will kick off their Club World Cup campaign against Al-Hilal on Saturday, guaranteeing at least one Arab team in the semifinals.
Ramon Diaz’s Saudi and Asian champions have a big act to follow.
It’s been less than two months since the Saudi national team was shining at the World Cup with a historic 2-1 victory over eventual champions Argentina.
On an unforgettable night at Lusail Stadium in Doha, it was star player Salem Al-Dawsari who scored the historic winner to secure a place in the hearts of Arab football fans.
The 31-year-old — with three goals from 11 matches this season — will once again carry the bulk of his team’s hopes at the Club World Cup, particularly as fellow Saudi internationals Salman Al-Faraj and Yasser Al-Shahrani are still out due to serious injuries picked up in Qatar.
However, this is a Hilal team that is becoming very familiar with the Cub World Cup, with another seven players participating in it for the third time. Abdullah Al-Mayouf, Andre Carrillo, Ali Al-Bulayhi, Mohammed Kanno, Jang Hyun-soo, Mohammed Jahfali and Gustavo Cuellar all took part in the 2019 and 2021 editions.
However, to surpass their previous finish of fourth place, improvement is needed at both ends of the field. The team has been inconsistent in front of goal while conceding 12 goals in 15 league matches this season; not a disaster by any means, but more than what Diaz expected from his title-challenging team.
But it’s Al-Ahly who kick off proceedings on Wednesday night when they take on Auckland City at Tangier Stadium.
Egypt may have missed the party in Qatar, but the Cairo giants, in their eighth participation, have a storied history in this tournament. Indeed they are the only team from the country to have ever played in it, and have finished a creditable third on three occasions, in 2006, 2020 and 2021.
Expect attacking midfielder Ahmed Abdel Kader to play an influential role for Al-Ahly in Morocco. The 23-year-old is considered one of the pillars of the squad over the last two seasons, having scored 11 and assisted seven goals in 60 matches. Coach Marcel Kohler will look for him to be the inspiration in attack, particularly with his ability to deal with defensive blocs and his partnership with left-back Ali Maaloul.
The three Arab clubs, with their three leading stars, have a chance to write their names in history. And if any inspiration is needed, all they have to do is look back at Qatar 2022.
Saudi Arabia has been confirmed as the host of the 2027 AFC Asian Cup at the 33rd Asian Football Federation Congress in Manama on Wednesday afternoon.
It will be the first time that the tournament will be held in the Kingdom, with the Green Falcons having won the competitions three times previously (1984, 1988, 1996).
Four other nations had initially bid to host the tournament, including Iran, Uzbekistan, China and Qatar.  
Iran and Uzbekistan were the first to withdraw, with Qatar following as it filled in the vacancy left by China for the 2023 edition.
When India withdrew in December, Saudi Arabia were left unopposed to win the vote.


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