Sat, Feb 02, 2019 - Page 16 News List

UAE tries to thwart Qatar final with eligibility protest


After being denied a spot in yesterday’s Asian Cup final by Qatar, hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) have launched a late challenge to get their regional rivals disqualified by alleging they fielded ineligible players.

There was an angry reaction from the home crowd in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday as the UAE were routed in the semi-final, with shoes thrown at Qatari players after striker Almoez Ali scored the second goal in a 4-0 win.

The UAE Football Association has now questioned whether Ali and Bassam al-Rawi meet FIFA’s nationality requirements to play for Qatar, having been born outside the country.

“This protest will now be reviewed in line with” Asian Football Confederation (AFC) regulations, the governing body said.

The ultimate sanction would see Qatar having to forfeit the match as a 3-0 loss, according to AFC rules, which would disqualify them from playing the final.

Players can feature for the national team other than their birthplace if they comply with FIFA’s requirements. Those include having a biological parent or grandparent born in the country or having lived continuously for at least five years in the country after the age of 18.

Al-Rawi is the son of a former Iraq international. Ali is widely listed to have been born in Sudan, but that could not immediately be verified.

By winning the hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup in 2010, Qatar have had a long time to try to find the players to ensure they has a competitive team.

Ali and al-Rawi are graduates of the Aspire training academy in Doha that has been used to develop young talent, many of whom were born outside Qatar, a nation of only about 330,000 citizens.

Qatar team spokesman Ali Salat did not reply to messages about the eligibility questions over players. Coach Felix Sanchez at the news conference ahead of the final only said he was “not concerned at all.”

With Qatar having a point to prove about their soccer ability, Sanchez was more willing to talk about the landmark of the small Gulf nation contesting a first-ever Asian Cup final.

“[If] we get a result that gives us the trophy, of course, this will be a biggest achievement in the [country’s] football history,” Sanchez said.

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