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#AsianCup2019: UAE buys up tickets for politically-charged Qatar match 'to block Doha fans from attending' Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

#AsianCup2019: UAE buys up tickets for politically-charged Qatar match 'to block Doha fans from attending'

Qatar has reached the last four of Asia's continental showpiece for the first time [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 January, 2019

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An Emirati prince has bought up all the tickets for the politically-charged Asian Cup semi-final against Qatar - a move that will prevent fans of the Maroons from attending.

An Emirati prince has bought up all the tickets for the politically-charged Asian Cup semi-final against Qatar - a move that will prevent fans of the Maroons from attending the game.

The Abu Dhabi Sports Council announced on Friday that its head, Prince Nahyan bin Zayed, had ordered that tickets for the match be distributed for free to "loyal Emirati fans".

State-run newspaper The National reported on Sunday that authorities were turning away non-Emiratis at long queues of fans attempting to get their hands on the free tickets.

The move will effectively block any international fans of the Qatari team from cheering on the side at the highly-anticipated showdown on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi.

Since June 2017, the UAE has been part of a quartet of nations leading an diplomatic boycott of Doha and has prohibited Qataris from travelling to the country since the blockade was imposed.

The UAE, which is hosting the football tournament, has said that Qataris wanting to attend games need security approval and sponsorship from an Emirati national.

Middle East football analyst Uri Levy told The New Arab that the latest measure was likely in response to Omani fans cheering for Qatar at the group stage game against Saudi Arabia.

    
      Omani fans cheer on the Maroons [Getty]

"Around 1,000 Omani fans have supported Qatar, producing great images of support for the team," Levy said.

"This act is no different from the series of unwelcoming gestures towards the Qatari team - starting with preventing Qatari fans from entering the UAE to Saudi and Emirati fans booing the Qatari national anthem during the match against Saudi Arabia,"

"The Qatari success in this tournament has caused major discomfort among Emiratis and Saudis," he added.

Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host nation, reached the last four of Asia's continental showpiece for the first time by beating two-time champion South Korea 1-0.

The team beat the Saudis 2-0 in a match dubbed "the blockade derby" during the knockout stages of the tournament.

The New Arab has contacted FIFA for comment on the move by Emirati authorities which could violate the body's regulations on allocating a percentage of tickets to guest teams.

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