May 8 – The enmity of the economic blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia has spilled over on to the football pitch again with the AFC this time forced to intervene over the behaviour of Venezuelan striker Gelmin Rivas in an Asian Champions League group game for Qatar’s Al Rayyan SC against Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad.
Rivas was charged by the AFC of ‘Bringing the game into disrepute Article 50, AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Code’, for using abusive gestures towards supporters of the Saudi club after scoring a goal (his sixth in five Champions League appearances) in the 21st minute of the match played March 4.
It was a short lived moment of ‘glory’ for Rivas as his side went on to get hammered 5-1 and he was brought up in front of the AFC Disciplinary committee.
Rivas was hit with a one-match suspension and fined $5,000. His suspension was issued for the return match against Al Ittihad in Qatar. That game was played yesterday and Al Ittihad won that match as well – 2-0.
The result killed off any lingering hopes Al Rayyan had of securing one of the two group qualification places for the round of 16 knockout phase, but guaranteed Al Ittihad’s qualification.
In January the disciplinary boot was on the other foot at the Asian Cup in the UAE, as Qatar faced abuse from fans in the UAE as they went on to dramatically win an politically and emotionally charged Asian Cup. Qatar beat Saudi Arabia and the UAE on their unbeaten title run.
The UAE were hit with AFC disciplinary sanctions following multiple fan disturbances with shoes and water bottles raining down on the pitch and the Qatar players.
For the most part the players controlled their behaviour but as the Rivas sanction proves, the pressure cooker atmospheres fuelled by the economic blockade are still present.
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