History was made during the 24th Arabian Gulf Cup in Qatar, as Bahrain emerged winners by beating three-time champions, Saudi Arabia. It came as a surprise that the tournament was held in Qatar, since the three countries involved, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, have been in a two-year diplomatic dispute. Initially, the three countries had boycotted their participation in the event. Still, they reversed the boycott, which was a welcome move amidst their strained relationship.

Match Highlights

History was made as Bahrain thrashed the ten-time champions Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, who missed their chance to win the championship for the fourth time. Even though Saudi Arabia did not win the trophy, they went home with the best player award that was given to their midfielder Abdullah Atif. The host country, Qatar, who were the reigning champions, lost to Saudi Arabia in the semi-finals.

The matches were played in a professional and competitive nature, and even the fans were respectful to each other; there were no scuffles both on or off the field. There were no crowd disruptions unlike before during the Asian Cup semi-final, where Qatar and the host UAE met in Group A.

Blockade Relief

For the first time in two years, the Saudi Arabian national football team was allowed to take a direct flight from Riyadh to Doha. Bahraini football fans were also able to travel to Doha via Kuwait and were treated like welcome guests. Spectators and experts on the Middle East noted that this football match just caused a major crack in the blockade and created some traction on the lifting of restrictions.

Generally, the tournament was a success, both politically and as far as sports go because it took place in a welcoming atmosphere without the antagonism and confrontation that had been prevalent in the last two years.