Police shut out fans at Asian Cup

Ticket-holders locked out of Khalifa Stadium before Australia face Japan in Asian Cup final in Qatar.

    Fans with tickets were denied entry to Qatar's showpiece Khalifa Stadium ahead of the Asian Cup final [Reuters] 

    Thousands of ticket-holding fans were turned away from the Asian Cup final at Khalifa Stadium as police imposed a lockout ahead of Japan's win over Australia.

    Al Jazeera English sports correspondent Andy Richardson described how supporters who had travelled halfway around the world were confronted by riot police as they waved their tickets at the locked gates.

    Another fan said a policeman wounded her hand as he grabbed her and tried to wrench her camera out of her hands.

    "If they did that with slightly aggravated football fans at the World Cup there would be a riot. There was confrontation for no reason"

    Andy Richardson, AJE sports correspondent

    The incident on Saturday is likely to bring into focus how Qatar will deal with much larger crowds when it hosts the World Cup in 2022.

    "It was just incredibly badly handled. There were kids and families, not causing any problem, being confronted by riot police and being told they weren't getting in," Richardson said of the situation outside before kickoff.

    "There were hundreds of people waving their tickets at our camera, people who had travelled from Japan, India, loads of Aussies."

    News agencies reported that up to 5,000 people had been shut out.

    Richardson added that the policing at the relatively low-key Asian Cup final would need to be reviewed if large, boisterous crowds were to be handled effectively when the World Cup comes to Qatar in 2022.

    'Polite supporters'

    "What I'm going to relay is what people were saying to me. If they can't cope with very polite supporters and families then how are they going to handle the World Cup?

    A fan holds up tickets as riot police man the fences in this picture taken by a witness [Al Jazeera] 

    "If they did that with slightly aggravated football fans at the World Cup there would be a riot.

    "There was confrontation for no reason. People just wanting to go and see a game of football, confronted by heavy-handed policing.

    "No one was being told why they were not getting in and the frustrating thing was that there were rows and rows of empty seats visible inside."

    Organisers said the issue would be addressed at a media briefing on Sunday morning.

    A female supporter described having blood running from her hand after being grabbed by a male policeman and forced to wipe her camera.

    "The guy went mental on me - to such an extent another cop got involved and was shouting his head off at him for what he'd done. Blood all down my hands," she said.

    "I have a chunk out of my finger and a bit out of my thumb, as well as a crunky arm from where he grabbed me. I'm going to the hospital tomorrow for tetanus jabs."

    Tickets 'not checked'

    The official attendance of the final was 37,174, but other fans said their tickets had not been checked properly as they entered the 40,000 capacity arena.

    "When we got to the ground not one person checked our tickets we were just ushered through," said one Australia fan. 

    "No bar code scanners like at the other matches I attended (they were all broken). We didn't even have our tickets looked at - we didn't have to present them to gate staff, grand stand staff - no one. So how they got an 'official attendance' is beyond me.

    Thousands more fans were stopped from leaving after Japan beat Australia 1-0 in extra time, being held within the perimeter of the stadium behind locked fences due to a fireworks display that was being launched outside the ground.

    An official announcement was made inside the ground, saying that people would not be allowed to leave.

    Readers of the Al Jazeera English website emailed to say they had missed out on watching the match.

    "I just spent over an hour outside Khalifa stadium together with a couple of thousand other people with tickets, wanting to get into the game," one said.

    "What does this say for 2022? It was chaos with riot police too. A sad experience."

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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