Asian Cup organizers review UAE complaint on Qatar players

Qatar’s forward Hasan Al Haydos (C) is marked by United Arab Emirates’ forward Ismaeil Al Junaibi (L) and United Arab Emirates’ midfielder Ali Salmeen during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup semifinal football match between Qatar and UAE at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 29, 2019. (AFP/Roslan Rahman)
Updated 31 January 2019

Asian Cup organizers review UAE complaint on Qatar players

  • The UAE lost 4-0 in Tuesday's semifinal against Qatar
  • Qatar will face Japan in the Asian Cup Final on Friday

ABU DHABI: Asian Cup hosts the UAE 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 organizers comes after Qatar thrashed the hosts 4-0 in a stormy semifinal.
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 UAE 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.
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.


Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

The first stage of Rally Qassim began in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170km. Several drivers are keen to test before the Dakar Rally crosses the country for the first time in January 2020. (SPA)
Updated 8 min 27 sec ago

Dakar Rally stars gear up for ‘thrilling’ Saudi race challenge

  • French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Dakar Rally drivers are gearing up for a “thrilling and exciting” challenge when the world-famous desert race is staged in Saudi Arabia for the first time next year.
The Kingdom will host the event from Jan. 5 to 17, 2020 with top racers from around the globe traveling thousands of kilometers through inhospitable terrain in cars, trucks and on quad bikes and motorcycles.
The rally will begin in Jeddah and follow a tough route through desert, sand dunes and mountainous areas taking in NEOM, the Red Sea Project, Riyadh and Qiddiya.
French driver Stéphane Peterhansel, a 13-time winner of the Dakar Rally, revealed that he was initially surprised to hear that the competition had been moved from Africa to Saudi Arabia.
“However, after doing some research, I realized that Saudi Arabia was a very wonderful and suitable country for the rally. It has different terrain types, and I expect us to have a perfect track. The vast desert gives me hope that the 2020 Saudi Dakar Rally will be more thrilling and exciting than Africa,” he said.
Five-time Dakar Rally winner and fellow French driver, Cyril Despres, said that racing in Saudi Arabia would be a new adventure that could only be experienced by those who lived up to its challenges.
“When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world,” he added.

Positive move
British rally raid motorcycle rider, Sam Sunderland, who won his category in the 2017 Dakar Rally, said he was delighted to be participating in the Saudi race. “I believe that this change is good, as I have lived in Dubai for 10 years, having adapted well to the Middle East’s atmosphere.

When I heard that the Dakar Rally was moving for the first time to the Middle East, I remembered the words of its founder, Thierry Sabine, who said that if you liked exploring the African Continent, you would also love exploring other parts of the world.

Cyril Despres, French driver

“Exploring a new area is a positive move for the Dakar Rally, and I am certain that everyone who practices this sport is excited to explore a new ground for racing,” Sunderland added.
ED Racing Team driver, Issa Al-Dossari, said the main reason he had taken part in Rally Qassim was to prepare for the Dakar challenge.
“We will be using two cars in the rally. We look forward to raising the level of preparedness for many coming global events. But this does not mean that we will not compete for the top places.”
Al-Dossari invited sports fans to visit the team’s headquarters at Date City to see equipment and meet its members.
The team must participate in two different cars, the first driven by Al-Dossari with his French navigator Sébastien Delaunay, and the second with Emirati Abdallah Al-Huraiz behind the wheel and Ali Hassan navigating.
The first stage of Rally Qassim began on Friday in Umm Sidra covering a distance of 170 km, with stage two raced over 200 km.
Meanwhile, entry registrations for the Dakar Rally are still open in all categories at https://www.dakar.com/en/the-competitors/register.