The competition between the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, plus Iraq and Yemen, is fiercely contested within the region.
It’s been almost 53 years since the very first Arabian Gulf Cup kicked off in Bahrain back in 1970.
Today, it is one of the most well-known sporting events in the region, and has grown significantly on all technical, organisational, and media fronts since its start. With some of the biggest teams taking to the pitch, the tournament draws a sizeable audience and fierce competition.
This year’s competition will commence on Friday and will kick off in the Iraqi city of Basra.
While Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar were the only four teams to participate in the event when it first started in 1970, the number of teams has since expanded to include eight nations.
The tournament saw an increase in teams to seven in 1976, and as the Gulf Cup developed, Yemen was added.
In the first four competitions in a row, 1970, 1972, 1974, and 1976, Kuwait was crowned champion.
Iraq won the cup they hosted in 1979, ending Kuwait’s hegemony over the competition. In 1982, the UAE hosted the sixth cup, with the participation of seven nations, where Kuwait made their return and kept the title.
The seventh edition of the tournament was held in Oman in 1984 and saw the Iraqis triumphantly make their way to the top.
In 1986, Kuwait won the competition yet again as Bahrain hosted the eighth Cup. The ninth competition was held in Saudi Arabia in 1988, and marked the historic third victory for Iraq.
Kuwait hosted the event and took home the title in 1990, the same year Iraq withdrew from the competition. The Iraqi team was also not present when Qatar hosted the Cup in 1992, and the hosts won the championship for the first time.
The Saudis won the championship in 1994, when the UAE served as the tournament’s host nation, making history. In 1996, Oman hosted the 13th competition, and Kuwait returned to the podium to win their eighth championship.
Kuwait also won the trophy in 1998, when it was played in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia hosted the tournament and won their second championship in 2002. At the 2003 tournament in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia retained their title. In the 2004 tournament in Qatar, eight teams competed for the first time, and Qatar won the title for the second time.
In 2007, the UAE hosted the competition and took home the title for the first time. The 2010 Cup was held in Yemen, a new participant in the contest. However, for the tenth time, Kuwait was the champion. The UAE won the championship in Bahrain in 2013 for a second time.
In a dispute that highlighted the deteriorating relations between the two countries, Iraq withdrew from the 2014 Gulf Cup in protest at the decision to move the competition from the southern city of Basra to Saudi Arabia.
That year, Qatar won their third championship.
Kuwait hosted the 23rd Gulf Cup in 2017. For the first time ever, Oman took home the trophy. Bahrain’s first championship was won in Qatar in 2019.