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A Soccer Tournament Breaks Through the Boycott of Qatar

This was not the case last December with the Gulf Cup, a biennial tournament featuring eight national teams from the region that was scheduled to be played in Qatar. Ten days before the opening match, with Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain refusing to participate, Qatar agreed to allow the tournament be switched to Kuwait. (The U.A.E. soccer association said that, in that case, its reasons for boycotting were not political.)

The tournament went off without major incidents: Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. were placed in a different group from Qatar’s, and their national teams never met on the field. But with no resolution to the diplomatic crisis, concern quickly shifted to this year’s Champions League, a tournament featuring 32 of Asia’s top clubs from various countries, set to begin its group stage in February.

The problem was that the tournament is split into eight groups of four teams, and with four clubs from Qatar, four from the Emirates and two from Saudi Arabia in the field, a collision of at least two of them seemed inevitable. (Iran, which has sided with Qatar in the political dispute, also has teams in the tournament and has its own diplomatic impasse with…

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