The build up to the AFC Asian Cup 2019 semifinal match between UAE and Qatar has adopted a political angle.
The Abu Dhabi sports council announced on Friday that its head, Prince Nahyan bin Zayed, had purchased and ordered all of the tickets reserved for the game to be distributed to ‘loyal Emirati fans’, in a move to prevent Qatari fans from attending the game and supporting their team.
A UAE news outlet, the National, then reported that non-Emiratis that were attempting to gain entry into the stadium were being turned away in an attempt to solely house home fans for the clash.
This is also because around 1000 Omani fans were allegedly found voicing their support for Qatar – something that UAE, one of the four nations involved in boycotting Qatar, doesn’t want.
Middle East football analyst Uri Levy had this to say about the issue on The New Arab:
“Around 1,000 Omani fans have supported Qatar, producing great images of support for the team. This act is no different from the series of unwelcoming gestures towards the Qatari team – starting with preventing Qatari fans from entering the UAE to Saudi and Emirati fans booing the Qatari national anthem during the match against Saudi Arabia.
“The Qatari success in this tournament has caused major discomfort among Emiratis and Saudis,” he concluded.
It remains to be seen if FIFA will impose any sanctions after one of its mandates – that a particular number of tickets have to be allocated to visiting team fans – was clearly violated.