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Joy as Kuwait’s football ban lifted after more than 2 years

Amir meets FIFA chief –  Infantino tours Jaber Stadium – MPs congratulate youth


KUWAIT: HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah presents FIFA president Gianni Infantino with a Kuwaiti national team kit bearing his name in the presence of HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem at Bayan Palace yesterday. – KUNA

KUWAIT: World football governing body FIFA announced yesterday it was lifting its suspension of Kuwait, after the National Assembly adopted a law meant to end government interference in the sport. “The suspension of the Kuwait football association is lifted,” FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino announced.

HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, alongside other senior Kuwaiti officials, received Infantino and a delegation accompanying him yesterday at Bayan Palace. The Amir expressed his gratitude to the FIFA chief for his unyielding support for Kuwaiti athletes, which he said was imperative to give the nation’s youth the opportunity to excel.
The encounter brought together officials from across Kuwait’s political spectrum, including HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem, Deputy Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al-Sabah, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Acting Minister of State for Youth Affairs Khaled Al-Roudhan and head of parliament’s priorities committee MP Ahmad Al-Fadhl.

Infantino spoke of his “honor to have met a world-renowned figure like His Highness the Amir”, as he announced that the two-year ban imposed on Kuwait’s football federation has officially been lifted. Infantino hoped it would be the start of a new era for the soccer-crazed nation, saying he was proud that Kuwait has rejoined the FIFA family. He added that lifting the suspension on Kuwait’s football federation was a “commemorative gift to His Highness the Amir in a day that will forever be remembered”. Ghanem thanked HH the Amir for his efforts to allow Kuwaiti footballers the chance to play again, saying that Infantino should be given his due as well for welcoming Kuwait back to FIFA.

World sports bodies led by FIFA and the International Olympic Committee suspended Kuwait in Oct 2015 for the second time since 2010 over alleged government meddling in sports. The suspensions meant Kuwait missed out on the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Asian Cup, and before that the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. On Sunday, the Assembly passed a new law in line with FIFA’s requirements and on Tuesday, Kuwaiti clubs elected the head of a new football federation.

Infantino and Minister of Commerce and Industry and Acting Minister of State for Youth Affairs Khaled Al-Roudhan speak with Kuwaiti youth during a tour of the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium yesterday. – Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat

Infantino later toured the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium. “On behalf of the sports authority, I thank all people and brother countries that exerted efforts and stood up for Kuwait to witness this day,” Acting Director of the Public Authority for Sports Humoud Fulaiteh said. He affirmed that the Public Authority for Sports will focus on working in reclaiming what Kuwait lost during the past two years. “Our members were depressed because of a lack of participation in sports competitions locally and internationally. But we promise that we will cooperate more with the Kuwait Football Association and will work to lift the injustice on other sports by negotiating with the International Olympic Committee,” he added.

Meanwhile, MPs welcomed the decision by FIFA to lift the suspension on Kuwaiti football. Ghanem congratulated the Kuwaiti people for the long-awaited step, while Roudhan hailed the great efforts made by Ghanem to secure the lifting of the suspension. Opposition MP Shuaib Al-Muwaizri congratulated the Kuwaiti youth for the decision, but demanded that the entire sports file be referred to the public prosecution for an investigation to penalize those who “betrayed” the country. Fadhl, who took part in the negotiations with FIFA, and opposition lawmaker Abdulwahab Al-Babtain also congratulated Kuwaiti youth.

Former president of Kuwait Football Association and ex-chief of Kuwait Olympic Committee Sheikh Talal Al-Fahd Al-Sabah said the latest developments prove his point of view. He said that he had repeatedly called on the government to stop interfering in sports affairs and to respond to demands by international sports bodies, “but these calls were always rejected”. “Now, the suspension on football has been lifted after the government accepted not to interfere,” he added.

By B Izzak, Faten Omar and Agencies

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