Today, Friday, in the city of Basra, the 25th edition of the Arab Gulf Football Cup, which will continue until January 19, will start with the participation of 8 teams, amid great official and popular interest in the tournament that Iraq is hosting for the second time, 44 years after hosting the first.
And the government agencies in Iraq have taken facilities related to the entry of fans of national teams through the border crossing easily, as they are granted free visas.
Basra also witnessed strict security measures and precautionary measures taken by the Military Operations Command in the city, in coordination with the Ministry of the Interior, aimed at securing the residence of the delegations participating in the tournament, public centers and fan areas.
And the Kuwaiti national team holds the record for the number of times crowning the championship (10 times), compared to 3 for Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iraq, and two titles for each of the Emirates and Oman, and one title for Bahrain.
Iraq faces Oman in the opening
The tournament opens with a first match between the Iraqi national team, the owner of the land, and its Omani counterpart at the Basra International Stadium, which can accommodate 65,000 spectators, in the first group, while the teams of Yemen and Saudi Arabia will meet in the second match for the same group.
Bahrain, the defending champion, will begin its participation tomorrow by facing the Emirates in Group Two, followed by the last confrontation in the first round between Kuwait and Qatar.
The first match is preceded by an opening ceremony, which the organizing committee confirmed that it will be exceptional, reflecting the heritage and history of the city of Basra, and its common life and social relations with the rest of the countries of the Arab Gulf region, and the tournament mascot came according to this specificity.
The Lions of Mesopotamia - taking advantage of the land and public workers - aspires to achieve a seventh victory at the expense of the Omani "Al-Ahmar", which is looking for a third victory.
It is expected that the Gulf 25 will be the first challenge that the Spanish coach Jesus Casas will face, coach of the Iraqi national team, in his first official appearance after his appointment.
Casas said: "All the teams are aspiring to compete in this tournament. We have a young group of players. We have confidence in their abilities despite their first participation. I was looking forward to the participation of the largest number of professional players in European leagues, and only a few had the opportunity to join."
On the other hand, the renewed Omani national team, led by Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic (67 years), who was appointed in early 2020, hopes to restore memories of the 2017 Kuwait Gulf Cup final when it won its second title after the first at home in 2009.
The Yemeni national team will start its participation by meeting the Saudi U-23 team, led by coach Saad Al-Shehri, at Basra Stadium, also in the second match of the group.
The Saudi Olympic team enters the tournament, armed with the first team's presentation in the Qatar 2022 World Cup, where it achieved a historic victory over champion Argentina 2-1 before being eliminated from the group stage.
Czech coach Miroslav Soukup is aware of the difficulty of the opening confrontation with Saudi Arabia, but "the team went through good conditions during the preparation period. The Yemeni team is in a strong group, and we are seeking a club in front of it."
A mysterious second group
The second group, which includes the defending champion Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the Emirates, is almost ambiguous and subject to fluctuations and possibilities, as long as these teams have a legacy in the championship titles.
Bahrain, led by Portuguese Helio Souza, will start the campaign to defend the title against the Emirates at Al-Mina Stadium, and on the same day, the Kuwaiti Blue will face its Qatari counterpart, who is also participating with a semi-equivalent squad.
Portuguese Bruno Pinheiro will lead the Qatari national team participating in the tournament, replacing Spain's Felix Sanchez, who left his post after the end of the 2022 World Cup.
The Kuwaiti national team, which is going through a recent construction period, is also seeking to emerge with a new reality that restores confidence to its fans, led by its Portuguese coach, Roy Pinto, who was appointed 4 months ago, looking forward to a suitable start against the UAE, whose team is still facing unstable periods in terms of preparation and competition.
Argentine Rodolfo Arwabarina has been leading the Emirates since the beginning of 2022, after the Dutchman Bert van Marwijk was dismissed as a result of the national team's level and declining results, and the historic top scorer, Ali Mabkhout, was excluded from his squad.