Qatar’s national football team coach reacted dismissively to an appeal by the United Arab Emirates to the governing Asian Football Confederation (AFC) that claims the Qatari team used ineligible players during the tournament, including in Tuesday’s semi-final 4-0 win over the UAE.
The complaint adds another layer to Qatar’s progression to Friday’s final of the continental football showpiece in the UAE, which is one of a quartet of nations boycotting Doha diplomatically and politically.
“The Asian Football Confederation has received a protest from the United Arab Emirates FA regarding the eligibility of two Qatar players,” the governing body said in a statement on Thursday.
“This protest will now be reviewed in line with the AFC regulations.”
The complaint about Qatar’s Almoez Ali, a 22-year-old striker born in Sudan, and Bassam Al Rawi, a 21-year-old defender born in Iraq, was reportedly filed within two hours of Qatar’s victory over the UAE.
It is alleged that Al Rawi and Ali have not met the residency requirements to be eligible to play on the national team while Qatar has stated that the players have relatives born in the country which allows them to play.
The UAE’s FA was given 48 hours to provide evidence, the Abu Dhabi-based The National newspaper reported.
So it’s not a problem until the UAE get spanked in a semi final. What’s the intended outcome?UAE go into final? How about Qatar’s other opponents who faced ineligible players?
— Jimmy K Yee (@jimmyyeek) January 31, 2019
Tournament is 3+ weeks old, the UAE knew they were going to play Qatar for almost a week, but only after they get housed on home turf do they think to flag up 'ineligible' players? The timing is curious, to say the least. https://t.co/gNc8YyUVJh
— Paul Freelend (@PaulFreelend) January 31, 2019
Football fans on social media denounced the move by the UAE, calling the timing of the complaint “curious, to say the least”.
UAE should accept the defeat and work harder for the next tournament. In fact UAE should be punished for hurling shoes and water bottles at Qatari players.
— Piano ya kanisa (@nashiwyc) January 31, 2019
‘Not on our minds’
Felix Sanchez, Qatar’s national team coach, said he was “not concerned at all” about the UAE’s bid to get Qatar thrown out of the tournament.
“No worries about it,” Sanchez told reporters on Thursday ahead of the final against Japan on Friday.
“We’re here one more day, tomorrow we’re playing one game and only focused on the game,” he added. “Any other thing that’s not related to the football point of view is not related to our minds at this moment.”
Qatar has been the target of a land, sea, and air blockade by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt since June 2017.
The quartet accuses Doha of supporting terrorism and opposition groups they have proscribed, charges Qatar vehemently rejects.
Qatari fans are not allowed to attend the fixtures in the UAE because of the ongoing ban on Qatari citizens entering the UAE.
Surplus tickets for Tuesday’s semi-final were bought out by bodies linked to the Emirati government and distributed to “loyal” local fans, meaning The Maroons (Qatar’s team) were up against a stadium full of hostile onlookers.
Qatari players were filmed being struck by and dodging slippers, shoes, and bottles thrown by local fans after scoring their second goal.
In a statement sent to Al Jazeera, the AFC said it was “conducting a thorough investigation into events at the Asian Cup UAE 2019 semi-final between the United Arab Emirates and Qatar”.
“Once that investigation has been completed the AFC will decide on the appropriate next steps,” it added.