Does the Saudi Kuwait crisis have a sporting chance of being averted?
A recent spat took place when Saudi blasted a Kuwaiti sports delegation to Qatar, a country currently fueding with the Kingdom, but also with the UAE and Bahrain.
The head of Saudi Arabia’s sports committee, Turki Al al-Sheikh, called Kuwait’s minister of youth and sport Khalid al-Rodhan a “mercenary” when the latter visited Qatar to thank that country for helping lift a FIFA ban on Kuwaiti soccer.
That was considered an “insult” and stirred the streets in Kuwait.
The spat was becoming a crisis.
As soon as Kuwaitis started protesting, diplomats scrambled to contain the unnecessary roughness.
It was just yellow card, but it could have been worse.
Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Political and Economic Affairs Adel Mirdad met Kuwait’s ambassador to the Kingdom, Sheikh Thamer Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Saba last Friday, Arab News reported, and strong bilateral and fraternal relations were asserted.
“It was highlighted that the latest sports debate between the chairman of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, Turki Al-Sheikh, and Kuwait’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs Khalid Al-Roudhan, was merely a typical sports debate,” said Arab News.
“We assert our rejection and astonishment at this insult because of its impact on the warm and distinguished fraternal relations between the two sisterly countries,” official news agency KUNA reported late last Wednesday quoting Deputy Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah.
“Rodan, simply is mercenaries in the shadow of positions… This mercenary will not harm Saudi Arabia’s historic relations with its sister Kuwait, and he only represents himself in what he said,” al-Sheikh said in his January 21 posting, reported Reuters.
According to Bloomberg, the insult triggered an uproar in Kuwait, where it was raised in parliament, putting pressure on the government to respond.
In subsequent tweets on Wednesday, Al-Asheikh justified his choice of words, saying “we don’t flatter in defense of the nation” and asking anyone who expects “flowery speech” to stop following his account.
Kuwait has played the role of mediator in an ongoing crisis between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt on the other who all accuse the gulf state of funding terrorism.
Kuwaiti courts are strict about passing insults and have passed prison sentences towards those who breach this rule.
“(recently) A Kuwait court sentenced a newspaper columnist Mohammed al-Saleh to a second five-year prison term in absentia for insulting Saudi Arabia, and earlier this month, Kuwaiti media reported that writer Fouad al-Hashem was sentenced to seven years in jail for insulting Qatar,” said Reuters.
According to the Middle East Monitor, Kuwait’s Ministry of Information has banned Saudi Arabian singers Rabeh Saqr and Majid Al-Muhandis from performing at the Gulf State’s National Day celebrations.
According to Thenewkhalij.org, the singers had retweeted a message posted by the Head of the Saudi Arabian Sports Commission, Turki Al-Shaikh.
Kicking politics out
Gulf times reported that Saudi Arabia’s football clubs would travel to Qatar for their away matches in the AFC Champions League beginning next month.
“Saudi authorities were earlier adamant their clubs would only play against Qatari sides on neutral territory. They were also lobbying the Asian Football Federation (AFC) to either have the home and away format of the tournament changed or accept their demand for neutral venues for matches involving Qatari and Saudi club sides,” said the daily.
“But in a tweet yesterday, Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority chairman Turki al-Sheikh said he had no objection to his country’s club teams travelling to Qatar for their Asian Champions League matches and that he had nothing to do with politics.”
Gulf Times also added that the AFC stuck to their guns and did not accept Saudi’s request for a change of venue or format such as using Kuwait as a neutral location for games.
“Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal have been slotted with Qatar’s Al Rayyan in Group D of the AFC Champions League beginning February 12. Qatar’s Al Sadd figure in Group C along with the UAE’s Al Wasl, while in Group B Qatar’s Al Duhail are pitted against UAE’s Al Wahda,” reported the daily.