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The New Arab

UAE 'downgrades' Asian Cup 2019 closing ceremony after Qatar win

Qatar fans are overjoyed at the team's first-ever continental cup win [AFP]

Date of publication: 1 February, 2019

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Plans to have superstar singers perform scrapped as medals awarded by low-level dignitaries.
Not a single senior UAE official was present to hand medals to the victorious Qatar football team in the closing ceremony of the Asian Cup 2019.

Elaborate plans to feature some of the region's biggest stars including Hussein al-Jesmi were also scrapped at the last minute, according to reports.

Had another team won, it is likely that UAE Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed would have personally awarded the top prize in the continent's premier prestige football event.

Though the ongoing Saudi-Emirati blockade made it nearly impossible for Qatar fans to be at the competition - even the team themselves were not allowed to fly direct to the UAE and had to travel via Kuwait - a small group of Omani fans had supported the Annabis throughout the tournament.

Comment: Qatar's thrashing of the UAE a little taste of justice amid the Gulf crisis

While there was no playing of the Qatar national anthem, the team ran from the prize-giving podium to celebrate with their fans from Oman, and several players waved Omani flags alongside those of Qatar in thanks to the travelling supporters.
 
Qatar players also celebrated with Omani flags
to honour travelling supporters [AFP]


"I have no words," said coach Felix Sanchez Bas immediately after the game. "We had an outstanding team and worked a lot."

Qatar, the dark horses of the Asian Cup 2019, won the tournament after a remarkable record-breaking run that saw the team concede just one goal.

Qatar beat Japan, who had previously won the continental championship four times, by three goals to one in a tense game that saw some remarkable goals.

The United Arab Emirates has placed Qatar under a strict economic blockade for the past 18 months, closing regional airspace to Qatar flights, and threatening everything from dumping nuclear waste off Qatar's shores to full-blown military invasion.

The trophy was handed to Qatar's winning team by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, while AFC officials were also well represented among the awarding party.

UAE dignitaries were notable by their absence from the podium, with the country having undertaken a number of attempts to end Qatar's run in the tournament - from block-buying 18,000 tickets to the semi-final, ensuring few if any Qatar fans could get a seat, to complaining bitterly about the eligibility of Qatari players.

Ali Almoez's 12th minute goal from an outstanding overhead kick - his back to the keeper - set the stage for Qatar's first half dominance. A second, a curling shot from Abdulaziz Hatem, in the 27th minute, gave the Japanese Blue Samurais a near-impossible target to chase.

But the second half saw Japan play with renewed determination, ending Qatar's clean sheet in the tournament in the 69th minute with a goal from Takumi Minamino.

But a penalty taken by Akram Afif for Qatar ended Japanese dreams of a fifth title in the 83rd minute.
 
Goalkeeper Saad el-Sheeb picked up $10,000 for the tournament's best goalkeeper award, while Almoez Ali was given the top goalscorer award - also worth $10,000 - for his record-breaking nine goals in the tournament, and picked up a cheque for $30,000 for the most valuable player award.

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