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Qatar and the blockade have a new narrative with the Gulf Cup 

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The news that the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are to participate in the Gulf Cup football tournament was a surprise to most people. Ever since the blockade was imposed on Qatar in 2017, the blockading countries have refused to enter any negotiations. The region has witnessed a cold war amplified with public engagements, political events and social media all used to construct multiple narratives against Qatar through the engagement of academics, politicians and media personalities.

The blockading countries did not take part in the 2017 Gulf Cup, while the Asian Cup hosted by the UAE in February this year generated heated emotions. Qataris could not attend their team’s matches in the UAE, and Qatar’s eventual victory caused dismay amongst Emiratis. We even saw some supporters at the final throwing shoes at the team and crying as a reaction to Qatar’s win.

That was the first time since the blockade began that Qatar found itself face to face with the blockading countries, even if it was on a football pitch rather than across the negotiating table. It was a political confrontation by proxy, where both governments were really playing against each other. From the reactions of the crowd in the stadium it certainly did not seem then that the blockade would end any time soon; the raw divisions were obvious. Eight months later, the 24th Gulf Cup looks set to prove this prediction wrong.

The announcement that the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are taking part generated an immediate response on social media. Hashtags on twitter indicated a positive atmosphere, with Gulf citizens viewing this eagerly as a sign that the crisis will be resolved soon.

READ: The UAE lobby in America lacks legitimacy

Will this happen? Can football really demonstrate the willingness of politicians to resolve a much larger rift and ease the political and social tensions in the Gulf created by the blockade? Well, yes… and........

© Middle East Monitor