By Anthony Harwood/London Correspondent
Football fans are taking to Twitter saying how they hope the Gulf Cup will mark the end of the Saudi-Qatar row.
With the tournament due to start Friday, many optimistic supporters are hoping for a repeat of three years ago.
In 2014 a diplomatic dispute between the two countries was still being resolved virtually as the first ball was being kicked.
But as the tournament gets underway this time, any hopes of a repeat were fading after the Saudi Arabian and UAE teams both stormed out of a press conference in Kuwait because the microphone of the BeIN Sports channel would not be removed.
Fans, however, were still living in hope of an end to the crisis six months after the Saudi-led blockade was launched with accusations that Qatar was cosying up to Iran and funding terrorism, charges which Doha denies.
As @5arj_alsrbq, a Saudi, said: ‘The 2014 Gulf Crisis between the blockading countries and Qatar was resolved before the Gulf Cup #optimism'
Even if the leaders of the Gulf states could not resolve their differences in time, many called for people in the rival countries to come together in sport. Another Saudi, @HurgNader, said: ‘The aim of the Gulf Cup is to unite all of the Gulf’s youth. One’s my cousin and the other’s my brother. May God reunite us all on good terms and for this to be a new page for all the people of the Gulf. May God make it a good start for all.’
A Kuwaiti fan, @BoJaij, with 23,600 followers said: ‘We hope the Gulf Cup succeeds in calming down the souls of the Gulf brothers and for the region to regain recovery. Because football is known to always create an ambiance of peace, love and respect among its followers’.
Another Kuwaiti, @nin23531, also thought the tournament should heal differences saying: ‘The Gulf Cup embraces. Let’s make it a successful tournament. Gulf leaders should find a solution to the political crisis between them before the tournament, so the peaceful Kuwait can embrace it without any differences between the brothers. Hosting it amidst the current circumstances will make it prone to a lot of problems and failure. We want a tournament full of love, not one of quarrel between brothers’.
The Gulf Cup was only made possible after Doha allowed Kuwait to host the event because blockading countries refused to take part if it was held in Qatar. Originally, Kuwait was due to put the tournament on but was prevented from doing so by a two-year FIFA ban and so Qatar, the previous winners, was chosen.
But earlier this month FIFA lifted the ban and Qatar offered to hand the tournament back to Kuwait so all eight Gulf teams – Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, Oman and Saudi Arabia - could compete. The best known soccer match between warring opponents took place along the Western Front during WW1 at Christmas 1914. Known as the Christmas truce, German and British soldiers reportedly crossed the trenches to play football in no-man’s land during an unofficial ceasefire. Ten years ago Iraq’s soccer stars, widely seen as the underdogs of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, played and won against Saudi Arabia in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The victory saw thousands of Iraqis spill onto the streets, temporarily uniting the fractured nation as Sunnis, Shias and Kurds celebrated with each other. A 2009 football match also brought together Turkey and Armenia, almost a century after Ottoman forces allegedly killed a large number of Armenians during WW1.
A peace settlement was discussed, and white doves released into the stadium after the Armenian president invited his Turkish counterpart to sit with him during the World Cup qualifier. Days later, an accord was signed.
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