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The New Arab

Flying shoes fail to kill sportsmanship at Qatar-UAE football clash

Stewards struggled to stop the stream of flying shoes aimed at the Qataris [Screenshot]

Date of publication: 29 January, 2019

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Qatar sailed to a 4-0 victory over the UAE on Tuesday, however for some disgruntled fans, a long, shoe-less journey home awaits them.
Tensions were at fever pitch before the Asian Cup semi-final between Qatar and the UAE kicked off at the Mohamed bin Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, as regional politics spilled onto the football pitch.

While the the players proceeded mostly in a sportsman-like manner (aside from an off-the-ball elbow that landed UAE defender Mohamed Ismail Ahmed Ismail a red card), animosity from the Emirati-dominated stands threatened to marr the highly-anticipated match.

Qataris had been banned from the game by the Emirati hosts of the tournament, leaving the team facing a hostile crowd of home supporters who were eager to cheer on the UAE team and boo anything Qatar.

This was seen most prominently after Qatar's 37th minute goal by forward Almoez Ali, which sent the Gulf team into the half-time break with a two goal advantage. As Qatar celebrated, a barrage of shoes were thrown by the Emirati crowd at the Qatari players.


In a game between two Gulf sides - locked in a political regional stalemate following a UAE-Saudi-led blockade on Qatar - the intention behind the insult couldn't be clearer.

In Arab cultures, the shoe has long been used as the object of insults due to its association with dirt and being put on the foot - the lowest part of the body. 

Many will remember the 2008 incident in which Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi hurled his shoe at then-US President George W Bush. As the journalist flung his footwear, he also called the US leader a dog.

Other prominent public figures have also ended up on the wrong end of a  plimsole projectile, including Egyptian lawmaker Tawfik Okasha in 2016.

On the throwing end was a one of Okasha's fellow lawmakers, angered by the fact that he had hosted the Israeli ambassador at his home.

Clearly, the gravity behind the shoe insult needs no further explanation.

Despite this, the actions of the hostile home fans on Tuesday it had little impact on the game. Qatar won the game comfortably 4-0 and will play Japan in the final - although Qatari fans will be banned again by Emirati authorities for this historic tie.

As rival fans continued a war of words on social media after the match, some were able to see through the complexities of regional politics and highlight the goodwill shown by some players on the night.



Others, meanwhile, scratched their heads in wonder about the long, shoe-less journey home for those who sacrificed their footwear.

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