Thursday, October 01, 2015


AFC Success Does Little To Thrill Fans In Kuwait

After the AFC Cup Semi Finals 1st Leg both Kuwaiti sides seem to have one foot in the final for the second year running continuing their fine tradition in the continental competition. Kuwait SC, who overcame Tajikistan side Istiklol 4-0 last night have won the trophy three times (2009, 2012, 2013) while Qadsia who must carry a narrower 3-1 margin to Malaysia for their second leg against Johor Darul Tazim are the reigning champions.

For all the success the Kuwaiti sides are enjoying in the prestigious competitions, why the apathy from their fans? Talk to most Kuwaitis and they say they 'support' either Qadsia, Kuwait SC or Al Arabi with the vast majority opting for Qadsia. But that 'support' doesn't necessarily translate into bums on seats on match day.

Last season I saw Qadsia take on Kuwait SC in a pretty important Premier League game at Qadsia's stadium in Hawally. The crowd was around the 5-6,000 mark for a game featuring two sides still in with a shout of the title. Not long after and another top three clash saw around 25,000 witness a 0-0 draw between Al Arabi and Qadsia.

When Qadsia played Al Ittihad in the AFC Cup Final back in 2010 in Kuwait the crowd was in excess of 58,000. Yet when they came up against the Malaysians around 1,500 bothered turning up. Yet even that number dwarves the 350 estimated to have watched Kuwait SC last night. 350 for a semi final in a competition they have won three times!

What is behind this apparent apathy towards football? Kuwait boasts a fine pedigree, even reaching the World Cup back in 1982, at a time when they were the undoubted power in the Gulf region. Those days are long gone and it seems years of political infighting behind the scenes have paid the toll for fan apathy on the terraces. In recent years the Kuwait FA have been banned twice by FIFA, yep twice as often as Indonesia, and many have now turned their back on the game.

There are echos of Singapore in all this. Singaporeans pine for the glory days of the early 90s when players like Fandi Ahmad, V Sundramoorthy and Abbas Saad won numerous titles for the Lions as well as helping old ladies cross the road and carving their names into the nation's psyche. Those days are long gone and the 90s generation are stuck with their memories and what they feel is an inferior product poorly produced and presented by those in authority.

Likewise Kuwaitis look back fondly on the 1970s, early 80s when they hoovered up trophies like the AFC Asian Cup as well as taking a vice like grip on the Gulf Cup of Nations which they won six times across the decades.

October could see an interesting time for football. After playing their opening World Cup Qualifier against Myanmar was shifted to Qatar it looks like home ties against South Korea and Lebanon will now be played in Kuwait but at the Kuwait SC Stadium and not the much bigger Jabar International Stadium which hosted Qadsia's AFC Cup Final appearance back in 2010. And of course we are halfway towards a second successive all Kuwaiti AFC Cup Final which could well be played on home turf. The Premier League is also slated to kick off in the middle of the month. A busy football calender for sure and an important one. But will the fans care?

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