UAE sanctioned over Asian Cup 2019 semi-final that went badly wrong

By Paul Nicholson

March 12 – Asian Cup 2019 hosts UAE have been hit with a $150,000 fine and ordered to play their next home match behind closed doors following the fractious Asian Cup semi-final played against rivals Qatar in January.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Disciplinary and Ethics Committee issued the sanctions citing four infringements to their articles on spectator conduct, organisation of matches, distribution of beverages and public passageways.

The match itself was dubbed as one of the ‘war games’ in the recent Asian Cup that also saw Qatar play Saudi Arabia, and Iran play Iraq, as well as teams from Yemen, Syria and Palestine competing in countries that are essentially on a war footing.

The UAE, as hosts, had the worst possible geo-political outcome with Qatar (who they are currently blockading) going unbeaten throughout the tournament to take the title. Even before the tournament began there had been issues regarding Qatari officials who were initially refused entry to the country before successfully trying again.

The semi-final match, against an injury hit and under-performing UAE team, was a 4-0 humiliation for the UAE which sparked an already partisan UAE crowd into a fury that saw hundreds of water bottles being thrown on to the pitch as well as sandals – the ultimate insult in the region.

With stewards unable to prevent the missiles being thrown – one hit a Qatari player – the match descended into chaos as the UAE leaked four goals and had a player sent off for violent conduct to add to the humiliation.

After the semi-final the UAE  immediately and, somewhat ungraciously (they could have filed the complaint before the match) concerning the eligibility of Qatari players Almoez Ali and Bassam Al Rawi who they said had been born in Sudan and Baghdad. Almoez had been the breakout forward of the tournament and scored the second Qatari goal in the win over the UAE.

Both the UAE and the Qatari FA submitted paperwork to the AFC disciplinary committee who just four hours before the final between Qatar and the Japan ruled both players were eligible for selection.

In its statement on the semi-final sanction the AFC said: “The UAE FA is required to settle the fine within 30 days in accordance with Article 11.3 of the AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Code and has been informed that any future violations may be met with more severe punishment.”

The disciplinary decision will come as an embarrassment for the UAE’s Mohammed Khalfan Al Romaithi in his bid to win the AFC presidency. His political rather football motivations for standing in the election (against Qatar’s Qatar’s Saoud Al-Mohannadi and incumbent AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa) have already been questioned. Similarly Al-Mohannadi’s.

See the full match report from the semi-final at

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