Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 67-Kuwait Tries To Run The World Cup…Just For One Day (1982)

Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah

Kuwait has never been big shakes on the world football scene despite their domination of the Gulf Cup and rivalry with Iraq, seen in the Arab world as the biggest rivalry in world sport. They did have a golden era though when they were Asian Cup champions in 1980 and then qualified for their first ever World Cup in 1982.

It wouldn’t be easy for Kuwait with the team drawn against three European sides. Those sides being England who were back for the first time since 1970, the French who were one of the favourites for the title and Czechoslovakia who were also back for the first time since 1970 and had finished runner up twice.

Kuwait managed a fantastic result in their first game when they managed to draw 1-1 with the Czechs thanks to Faisil Al-Dakhil, the second best Kuwaiti player ever. It was the second game of their campaign against France that Kuwait would be most remembered for though.

In the heat of Valladolid in Central Spain the Kuwaitis were taken apart by a French side led by the mercurial Michel Platini with the scoreline 3-0 just after the break. The French put the cue in the rack and Kuwait struck with 15 minutes to go to make it 3-1. A consolation? Could they come back? Well, they thought so. They pushed the French but left themselves open at the back which the French took advantage of with a few minutes to go or so they thought.

With the French attacking the Kuwaiti defence stopped. Was it a tactic? Well, no, they had heard a whistle and thought the referee had blown it. The French did not hear it and kept playing on with a goal scored. The Kuwaitis were incensed. They surrounded the Soviet referee Miroslav Stupar and demanded the goal be struck off but he would have none of it.

The Kuwaiti players then refused to kick off again after the goal and walked off the pitch in protest claiming that they heard the whistle from the crowd and stopped thinking it was from Stupar. If it wasn’t turning in to a farce already it did now with the brother of the Kuwaiti Emir, Fahed Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, coming down from the stands and on to the pitch to remonstrate with the ref to try and resolve the situation.

Al-Sabah had taken upon himself to be the Mr Sport of Kuwait. He was the founder of the Kuwaiti Olympic Committee along with being the head of the governing bodies for Basketball, Football, Handball and even Tae Kwon Do. He demanded that the ref rule the goal out and that play start again or his players wouldn’t come back on to the pitch. With the referee losing complete control of the game (the first cardinal sin of an official some would say) and a worldwide TV audience looking on with bemusement Al-Sabah refused to yield in his quest to have the goal struck off.

Finally Stupar relented and the goal was struck off which now infuriated the French who surrounded the ref but by now he’d had enough and ordered a free kick to Kuwait. Al-Sabah, smug in his small victory, hadn’t even got back to his seat back up in the stands when a perfectly legitimate goal was scored by the French to definitely make it 4-1 and win the points for France in what had been a farcical end to the game.

Even after this loss Kuwait was still a chance to make the second round but lost their final game to England 1-0 and went home. France would go on to the semifinals. Al-Sabah would go on to join the International Olympic Committee and other notable organisations before he was killed when defending the royal palace in Kuwait City during the invasion by Iraq in 1990.

A bemusing moment in the history of the tournament.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.


  1. Fahed Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah – or as he was widely known at home – Eddie.

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