Bahrain will host the 21st Gulf Cup soccer championship (Khaleeji 21) in January, it was decided in a draw in Manama on Thursday.
The draw ceremony was staged in the presence of soccer officials from around the Gulf region at the Bahrain National Museum, Qatar’s The Peninsula reported on Friday.
The championship was originally scheduled to be hosted by the Iraqi city of Basra, but was moved to Bahrain to ensure that Iraq could suitably host the competition’s 22nd season.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the GCC soccer heads in Kuwait last year in November.
“The reason behind the change is to ensure the capability of Iraq to host the tournament in the most ideal manner,” Kuwait Football Association President Sheikh Talal Fahad Al Sabah said at the time, according to The Peninsula.
The draw brought the UAE to Group A alongside Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.
Group B includes defending champions Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
The previous tournament was hosted by Oman and saw Kuwait beat Saudi Arabia to earn the winning title for the tenth time.
Bahrain, which hosted the first event in 1970, is yet to win a title, along with championship hopeful Oman.
The biennial event takes place between Jan. 5-18. UAE striker Esmail Matter told Gulf News on Tuesday he believes his country has every chance of winning the trophy.
Matter, who is a former 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship golden ball winner and a holder of the 2007 Gulf Cup title, said: “We have a chance to win the Gulf Cup.”
“It won’t be easy because matches between other GCC teams are often tougher than when we play in Asia. When we play against each other in the GCC, we really show our aggression on the field. It will be tough,” he added.
The prize money of the championship has been raised to a total of 475,000 Bahraini dinars ($1.2 million).