Gulf's Cup drought contrasts with thirst for Europe's clubs

Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:38am EST
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By Matt Smith

DUBAI (Reuters) - Football is awash with Gulf money, yet the region's teams will again be absent from the World Cup due to constant managerial changes and players' lack of experience of foreign leagues.

For the 2014 tournament, Oman and Qatar made the last group stage of Asian qualifying but Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates suffered abject campaigns, winning only six of 24 games after the preliminary round.

Their poor showing contrasts with that of Jordan who will play the first game on Wednesday of a two-leg playoff with Uruguay for a place at the finals in Brazil.

"If you look at our region, we have probably the least amount of resources going into our sport, but we are the only ones from our region who are actually at this stage, so I'm optimistic," Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, head of the Jordan Football Association, told Reuters.

The Gulf has a contradictory relationship with football. On one hand, it appears football-mad - Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup and, together with the UAE, has invested billions of dollars in the European game.

Many regional companies have paid handsomely to associate themselves with clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United.

Yet there is scant interest in the local leagues, few Gulf players have made a mark internationally and the small native populations - Saudi Arabia apart - suggest the region is in for a prolonged struggle.

Perhaps the main problem is that almost all Gulf national team players represent regional clubs.   Continued...