It is time for Qatar and Saudi to put their dispute aside, as the two Gulf countries will face off in AFC Asian Cup’s group stage.
Rabat – Qatar will play Saudi Arabia at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup on Thursday, the first meeting since their diplomatic crisis in June 2017.
The match will be played in the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the regional political conflict alongside Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt.
The game will kick off at 8 p.m. local time (4:00 p.m. GMT).
The four countries are imposing a land, air, and sea blockade on Qatar, accusing it of financing terrorism and destabilizing the Gulf region. Doha’s officials firmly deny the allegations.
Qatar views the blockade as an attempt by the Gulf powers and Egypt to punish them for pursuing an independent foreign policy.
Qatar Football Association’s (QFA) media officer Ali Al Salat says it is time for the two nations to put their conflict aside and focus on the tournament.
“We want to win this match, not because of the political matters but to get to the top of the table,” Al Jazeera quoted Ali Al Salat as saying. He stressed that there is no need to mix political issues with sports.
Air blockade on Qatar
Since the four countries imposed an air blockade on Doha, the 25-person Qatar-squad had to fly to the UAE via Kuwait. Qatar will now play without fans because they are banned from entering the country.
In the UAE, it is illegal to show any kind of support or sympathy with Qatar. Any support is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Qatar-based channel beIN Sports is the exclusive broadcaster of the competition in the MENA region.
About 20 beIN Sports’ journalists are currently in the UAE to cover the tournament. However, some Doha journalists were barred from entering the country despite holding valid accreditation.