AFC Asian Cup 2019: Qatar’s young defender Tarek Salman talks about the partisan UAE crowd in semifinal

Tarek Salman Qatar UAE Japan

Qatar thumped hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) 4-0 to enter the semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 on Tuesday, but there were some unsavoury scenes which marred what was a good game of football. 

The atmosphere was supercharged with the a lot at stake sporting and political wise with both UAE and Qatar at the centre of a diplomatic stand off. And the political tensions spilled over to the football match with the supporters of the home nation booing the Qatar national anthem before the start of the semifinal.

And it did not stop there. Qatar players were at the receiving end of the Emirati supporters as shoes, water bottles and other items were thrown at them from the stands on more than one occasion.

And Qatar’s young centre-back Tarek Salman was one player who was the centre of it all as he once again helped Qatar keep a clean sheet in the tournament. After six matches, Qatar are yet to concede a single goal in the tournament and have set a new Asian Cup record.

Tarek said that the Qatar players were relaxed despite the happenings on the stands of the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

“We talked to each other. We were relaxed,” the 21-year-old told after the match.

“We said to each other that we are playing a normal game and don’t think about it a lot, just focus on them and do it like we did each game before. We won, and I’m very happy and very proud of our team,” said the Al-Sadd stopper back.

Tarek, who was without his central defensive partner Bassam Al-Rawi for the game due to suspension, said that he hopes Qatar to continue the good run and lift the Asian Cup title come February 1.

Highlights – Qatar vs United Arab Emirates

“It’s a very, very big thing for our country. It’s history. It’s the first time for our country to achieve this level of the competition, to arrive to the final with the top scorer, the top assists, the clean sheet for six games. This makes us very proud of ourselves,” he said.

“We hope to continue with this. We now have an extra step against Japan and we need to start to recover from now to be ready for the next game,” Tarek added.

Tarek also said that Qatar’s success is not something that has surprised him having been with the group for a very long time now!

“Actually, no (I am not surprised), because we have been together for maybe seven years with the coach [Felix Sanchez] as a team, as young players, so it’s not the first time to achieve something like this,” said the defender.

“In 2016, we won the AFC U-19 Championship, and in 2018 in China we achieved third in the U-23 competition, so it’s not the first thing. It’s step by step,” he said.

Looking ahead at the Japan game, Tarek said Japan will be a difficult opponent. “Japan, in every tournament, they achieve. They arrive to the final, the semi-finals, so they are a very strong team. We respect them, but also we have our team and we are ready for them, and we hope to make a good game against them,” he added.