KUWAIT: Authorities ordered police to seize the state’s football association and Olympic committee offices. The action on Sunday heightened a standoff that has seen Kuwait suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and world football’s governing body FIFA since October.
The country did not take part in this year’s Rio Olympics and will not contest the qualifiers for football’s 2018 World Cup. As part of his keenness on the issue, HH the Amir yesterday received top officials of the two interim committees tasked with taking care of affairs at the Kuwait Olympic Committee (KOC) and the Kuwait Football Association (KFA).
The Amir encouraged the officials to exert utmost efforts to promote the sports and youth sector in Kuwait, and to bring those who break the law to justice.
The move came after the government’s sports commission ousted Sheikh Talal Fahd Al-Sabah as head of the KFA and KOC. Sheikh Fahd Jaber Al-Ali has been named as the new head of the Olympic committee.
Fawaz Al-Hassawi, who was named as new head of the football association, is the owner of English Championship side Nottingham Forest. Police seized the offices of the football association but failed to take over the Olympic committee headquarters. At a press conference after the football offices were seized, Hassawi promised increased prizes in the Kuwaiti championship.
However, the ousted head said authorities had used “threat and intimidation” in an official notice demanding that the KFA offices be handed over. Sheikh Talal, in a statement released by KFA, said he had been accused of “financial violations”, over which he demanded an investigation by Kuwaiti prosecutors.
The government action raised question marks over the “rule of institutions” in the state, he said, charging that it was a “personal” campaign. “They have to understand that what was taken by force from us today shall be taken back tomorrow by the rule of law and the justice of the cause and the support of the international and local Olympic movement.” The sports commission is headed by Youth and Information Minister Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al- Hmoud Al-Sabah, who has sought greater control over Kuwait’s sports bodies. The IOC and FIFA suspended Kuwait last October over a law giving the government the right to intervene in sports bodies. A new law was passed in June but the IOC said this only increased government powers.
The IOC and FIFA maintain that Sheikh Talal is the legitimate head of the two associations. The IOC yesterday strongly condemned the actions of Kuwaiti authorities. “The IOC strongly condemns these actions which, regrettably, continue to worsen the situation instead of helping to find solutions,” said a letter sent by the IOC after the police action. A copy of the letter, sent to Sheikh Salman, was obtained by AFP. “The IOC will hold the government authorities responsible for any loss or damage to the KOC properties and assets, in particular those derived from IOC/Olympic Movement funding,” the letter warned.
The IOC letter said the Olympic movement would not recognize any of the “the so-called ‘interim committee’ appointed by government authorities in place of the duly elected office-bearers”. The Asian Football Confederation has also told its members not to cooperate with the new leadership of the KFA.
The IOC said it was “still hoping that reason and common sense will prevail” in the standoff. “The IOC calls on the highest authorities of Kuwait to work constructively and responsibly on a solution … instead of taking actions which have no effect other than to make the situation worse,” said the letter. — Agencies