UAE protest Asian Cup eligibility of Qatari players before final

ABU DHABI: Asian Cup hosts the United Arab Emirates have protested the eligibility of two Qatari players on the eve of Qatar’s appearance in Friday’s final against Japan.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed to AFP on Thursday that it was investigating the case brought by the Emirati football association against the 2022 World Cup hosts.

The UAE’s decision to appeal to organisers comes after Qatar thrashed the hosts 4-0 in a stormy semi-final that saw a hostile home crowd pelt the victors with plastic bottles and shoes.

According to media reports, the players in question are striker Almoez Ali, who has scored a record-equalling eight goals at the tournament, and defender Bassam Al-Rawi.

Ali, 22, is of Sudanese descent, while 21-year-old Al-Rawi was born in Iraq.

“The Asian Football Confederation has received a protest from the United Arab Emirates FA regarding the eligibility of two Qatar players,” an AFC spokesman told AFP.

“This protest will now be reviewed in line with the AFC regulations.”

Qatar could potentially have to forfeit the match and be ordered to pay a fine, under the AFC’s Disciplinary and Ethics Code.

The AFC also has the power to exclude teams from a future competition if the ineligibility is discovered after a tournament, the document says.

Qatar, who have been abused by local crowds over the long-running Gulf blockade of the tiny, energy-rich country, are appearing in their first Asian Cup final.

Their Spanish coach Feliz Sanchez insisted there was no issue.

“I’m not concerned at all,” shrugged the Spaniard, after AFC moderators had tried in vain to block press conference questions on the issue.

“All the players are working with us, so no worries.

“We’re very isolated (at the hotel) and we’re not looking for any outside discussion,” he added. “This team doesn’t need any extra motivation — to play an Asian Cup final is enough motivation.”

Iran made a similar protest against an Iraqi player they claimed was ineligible at the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia, which was rejected by the AFC.

[source_without_link] Agence France-Presse[/source_without_link]