January 17 – The Saudi Arabian FA was giving tickets away in hotels in Abu Dhabi prior to the kick off the top of the table group clash between them and Qatar tonight.
With the intensity of the diplomatic stand-off between the countries, a partisan crowd was expected at the Zayed Sports City Stadium with estimates that as many as 15,000 Saudi supporters expected to make the journey.
The Saudi Football Federation was seen distributing tickets free to anyone who asked at a plush Corniche hotel downtown Abu Dhabi. Pakistani drivers and Filipino fans were among the benefactors.
Saudi Arabian games have not drawn big attendances at the tournament, but the SFF is keen on having plenty of fans in the stadium against Qatar. Qatari fans are not allowed to travel because of the Saudi and UAE blockade of their country.
Before the game Qatar’s Spanish coach Felix Sanchez had downplayed the hostile atmosphere his Qatari team might have to face against Saudi Arabia at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, the tournament’s main venue.
“The supporters are supporting the other team, we are not worried at all,” said Sanchez. “They are professional (players). The supporters are there just to support.”
Qatar thrashed North Korea 6-0 in their second group game, but there had been no Qatari fans in the stands. The bulk of the crowd had been made up by North Korean cheerleaders.
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