Officials defend Asian Cup lockout

Qatar 2011 organisers say that most of the thousands of fans barred from Australia v Japan final didn't have tickets.

    Japan celebrate winning the Asian Cup after thousands of fans were turned away from the Khalifa Stadium gates [EPA] 

    Organisers responded to the anger of thousands of fans locked outside Khalifa Stadium for the Asian Cup final by saying that most of those trying to get into the ground did not have tickets.

    Jassim Al Romaihi, the operations director for the Qatar 2011 organisers, said that 700 ticket holders were refused entry when the gates were shut up to an hour before the match between Australia and Japan due to security measures for the son of the Emir.

    The incident has raised questions about whether the scenes are likely to be repeated when Qatar hosts the World Cup in 2022.

    Speaking at a press conference held jointly with Asian Football Confederation officials on Sunday, Al Romaihi said reports of heavy-handed policing would be investigated.

    'Come early'

    "We said to the spectators, 'come early'. Unfortunately, yesterday we had to close the gates for security reasons," he said, adding that around 3,000 fans were locked out.
    "Most of the people outside were without tickets, which was causing a problem.

    "We feel sorry for the people not having a ticket. I hope this will not give a bad impression about the tournament.

    Supporters stand outside the perimeter as police shut the gates to the Khalifa Stadium

    "We were hoping we would not have anything like this happen, but it happened, and you can't satisfy everybody."

    Fans who had travelled from halfway around the world complained that they were faced with aggressive riot police and barred from entering, despite holding tickets and being able to see rows of empty seats in the ground.

    One woman told Al Jazeera on Saturday night that she had received gouge wounds on her hands as a policeman grabbed her camera in the crush outside the gates.

    "These actions were not to be taken. It's very important for us to know about these cases and I hope it will get looked at. We will investigate this and get back to you," Al Romaihi said of the incident.

    He said that security surrounding members of the Qatar royal family attending the match, which was won 1-0 by Japan in extra time, had been out of organisers' control.

    Responding to rumours that people had been let into the ground without tickets two hours before kickoff, Al Romaihi said: "This issue is not right. Everyone that entered had tickets that were bought and paid for."

    He added that ticket holders who were denied entry could apply for a refund.

    "They can go to our website and approach us and we'll consider this with the AFC," he said.

    "In general I'm very happy with what's been done, there are some issues that we have to look at.

    "We have a lot of events coming up before the World Cup in 2022 and Of course we want to have a good feedback from people leaving the country."

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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