The Qatar Football Association (QFA) has announced today (January 6) that the country's football team had arrived in Abu Dhabi to compete for the 17th edition of the highly-competitive Asian Cup games.
A tweet by the QFA said that the squad had “arrived at Al-Ain airport and the delegation is en route to our team’s hotel”.
Qatar's participation at the games happened at what many people call "a highly sensitive time for the Gulf region" as the host country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is among the Saudi-led bloc which imposed a diplomatic and economic boycott against Doha for more than 18 months now.
The team’s journey to the UAE was a reminder of the politics involved as they flew via Kuwait, because of a ban on direct flight from Doha to Abu Dhabi. The stop-off was also symbolic as it is Kuwait which has led regional mediation over the crisis.
Officials and players have vowed to put politics to one side during the almost month-long tournament. “In the end this is football. We just control ourselves and play football,” Qatar’s goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb said before embarking for the UAE.
The tournament could prove to be a flashpoint, especially since Qatar is set to play against Saudi in a group game on January 17.
In addition, a leading Qatari official and tournament organiser, Saoud al-Mohannadi, was allegedly barred from entering the UAE on his first attempt, though officials in Abu Dhabi disputed this. Read more about this angle of the story HERE.
Five Qatar-based journalists also claim they were not allowed into the UAE to cover the tournament, after allegedly being kept waiting at Dubai airport for 13 hours before returning to Doha.
On June 5, 2017, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain joined forces to accuse the tiny yet oil-rich Arab peninsula of supporting terrorism and seeking closer relations with Shiite powerhouse Iran which Qatar strongly denies.
Football has fed into the Gulf dispute, due to calls from among the boycotting nations for Qatar to be stripped of hosting the World Cup in 2022.
It is the first time Qatar’s team has travelled to the UAE since the diplomatic crisis began.
To check out the Asian Football Confederation's website and social media handles, check out the links below!
What are your thoughts on this latest development? Are you wishing Qatar's delegates to the Asian Cup the best of luck? If yes, drop us a line in the comments and also, don't forget to like and share this article—it keeps us going!
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