Kuwait marks 40th anniversary of sole WC appearance – ARAB TIMES

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KUWAIT CITY, June 16 : Some 40 years ago, the Kuwaiti national team made its mark on the biggest football event in the world, partaking in the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain as the first GCC and Arab Asian country to compete in this prestigious tournament. Kuwait qualified to the FIFA World Cup after topping their group, which included New Zealand. Afterwards, the Kuwaiti national team competed against top teams such as England, France and what was known then as Czechoslovakia.

A group photo of the Kuwaiti national team before its match with France in the 1982 World Cup Final

The “blues” drew with the Czechoslovakia 1-1, lost to France by 1-4, and gave the English team the run for their money losing by a sole goal. “I felt proud of our achievement while setting foot on the pitch and hearing the national anthem,” Saad Al-Houti, the skipper of the Kuwaiti squad in the 1982 FIFA World Cup, told KUNA in an interview.

Al-Houti added that the World Cup appearance was the pinnacle of their football career, which began with winning the Gulf Cup and Asian championship titles. This was followed by the Kuwaiti national team participation in the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, which saw them compete against the Soviet Union in the quarterfinals, he pointed out. While remembering the achievements was important, the Kuwaiti former national footballer stressed that the current generation of managements and athletes should set plans to bring back the Kuwaiti national team back in the forefront of football nations.

The Kuwaiti achievement in 1982 was a result of meticulous planning and available talent, said Abdullah Al- Mayouf, another Kuwaiti football legend and member of the squad. Numerous training camps were organized for the team in Portugal and Morocco and various encounters were scheduled to sharpen out skills for the biggest football tournament held every four years, he noted, indicating that Kuwait and the Arab world was proud to see the blues amongst the 24 best squads in the world. Al-Mayouf remembered the strong support from top government executives who provided the team with all they need to focus on the FIFA World Cup, but felt a bit disappointed that the team did not return to the tournament since then.

Reflecting similar sentiments, footballer Nasser Al-Ghanim affirmed that the golden generation of Kuwaiti footballers were very proud of their achievements during their fantastic tenure. “I was 21 of age when I took part in the tournament,” Al-Ghanim stated, saying that it was an unfathomable honor to be part of the greatest football generation that Kuwait had produced and an unmatched until now. The golden age of Kuwaiti football could be remembered with the mention of one man’s name, the late Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, said manager of the Kuwaiti football squad in Spain, said Yousef Al-Shamlan.

Al-Shamlan also attributed the success of the team to head coaches like Brazilian legends Mario Zagallo and Carlos Alberto Parreira who guided the young Kuwaiti talents and brought out the best from them. Assistant coach of the Kuwaiti team Jawad Maqseed also reminisced about the national team participation in the tournament, saying that players were highly efficient and acted as one both on the pitch and outside. He summed the Kuwaiti success in the golden era to the availability of talent, well planned training sessions and camps as well as a the presence of tremendous top management and staff. (Fahad Shafaqa- KUNA)





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