A shocking act of disrespect has sparked controversy at the Asian Cup.
United Arab Emirates fans vented their anger on Tuesday as they slumped to an embarrassing defeat to bitter rivals Qatar – in a blizzard of shoes, boos and water bottles.
Projectiles rained down as the hosts crashed to a 4-0 loss in the semi-finals at a sold-out, 42,000-capacity Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, which was nearly unanimously behind the hosts.
A ticket giveaway for Emiratis only kept pro-Qatar fans down to a few dozen – especially as Qataris are largely barred from UAE due to the ongoing Gulf blockade.
With tensions high between the two countries, ear-splitting boos drowned out the Qatari anthem and optimistic fans displayed the word, “Final” in giant letters before kick-off.
But the Qataris were a class apart and they were ahead after 22 minutes when UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa let Boualem Khoukhi’s hopeful shot slip through his fingers.
Almoez Ali then scored a record-equalling eighth goal of the tournament, prompting angry fans to hurl their shoes onto the field.
Emirati fans throw shoes at the Qatari team after Qatar’s Ali scores his 2nd goal in the #AsianCup2019 match that ended in a 4-0 victory for Qatar. The UAE rulers bought out 18,000 tickets to prevent Qatar fans getting seats amid ongoing 18 month blockade. #ouch pic.twitter.com/R2LFfkxLjI
— Ahmed Shihab-Eldin (@ASE) January 29, 2019
The act of throwing you shoe at someone is considering the ‘ultimate insult’ in the Middle east, because it implies the victim is lower than the dirt on the bottom of your shoe.
Bottles also crashed on to the pitch throughout the game, with one hitting the crossbar behind Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb and Salem Al-Hajri struck by an object.
“The team didn’t show anything, wasn’t up to speed. The formation was bad, neither the team had no soul, nor any of the players,” said Abdallah Mohammad as he trudged away.
“The tactics were wrong, the coach did nothing, all the changes were wrong. Seeing that, I don’t think we even deserved to be in the semi-finals.”
Abdel Rahman said: “We’re really angry with the team. They performed well, but we hope they will succeed in the future.
“Defeat is not a problem, the important thing is that they learn from their mistakes. They weren’t organising their attacks!”
Not just that UAE fans disrespect the world of sports by throwing bottles and shoes at Qatar players after the win.
Sportsmanship is being the bigger person.
— Abbas Sarsour (@iFalasteen) January 29, 2019
#UAE fans threw their shoes and drinks on #qatar players just because of a goal in the #AsianCup2019 this attitude is so disgusting and embarrassing. They should be punished because of that. pic.twitter.com/kiQye4ltSC
— ١١:١١ (@sh_a974) January 29, 2019
it’s disgusting to see acts like this from fans who are dreaming of hosting a world cup. Buying all tickets & throwing shoes at players for celebrating is disrespecting this beautiful sport. Hard luck UAE, but before you can win, you need to learn how to lose on and off the pitch pic.twitter.com/Cyomu0rATE
— Nadim Wahbeh (@nwahbeh1) January 29, 2019
— Anas Jabrany (@anas_jabrany) January 29, 2019
Shameful and disgusting scene at the @afcasiancup semifinal
UAE fans throwing shoes at Qatari players after Qatar takes a clear lead against the host team
— IstandWithQatar.org (@IstandWithQatar) January 29, 2019
With coach Alberto Zaccheroni set to depart what was already an ageing team, UAE can expect big changes before qualifying for the 2022 World Cup — which will be held in Qatar.
But first, they will hope Felix Sanchez’s exciting side don’t inflict the ultimate embarrassment of lifting the Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi by beating Japan on Friday.