In late January, a British football enthusiast was arrested in the United Arab Emirates for wearing a Qatar t-shirt at an Asian Cup match played at the Emirati funding, Abu Dhabi. Ali Issa Ahmad was allegedly unaware of a decree that might have forced him to cover a massive fine and seen him imprisoned for around 15 years for demonstrating sympathy for Qatar. Maybe he also did not clock which there were no Qatari fans in the stands.

That’s mainly due in June 2017, the UAE, combined with Saudi Arabia(****), Egypt and Bahrain, launched a land, air and sea blockade of the Gulf neighbour. Qataris living in the four states were kicked out and never allowed back. Even the”no sympathy” decree followed soon afterwards.

The unfortunate fan probably also found it inquisitive and possibly upsetting the Qatari national anthem was drowned out by boos and each time Qatar scored, the group was showered with verbal abuse, shoes and plastic bottles. A couple of days later, at a minute of karmic justice, Qatar whipped the UAE 4-0 then proceeded to assert the cup with another convincing win against Japan.

Rather like this enthusiast, FIFA, I’m sure, had no inkling when it given the 2022 World Cup to Qatar in 2010 it was going to enter the twilight zone of Gulf politics.

Soon after the announcement, allegations the Qataris had bribed their approach to football and sport’ most precious asset started circulating. This coincided in the US of some dozen FIFA officials accused of receiving payments for dispersing marketing rights and media .

More allegations were made from Qatar, making it categorically denied. Since that time, the Qataris are assiduous in shoring up support and fixing issues concerning the World Cup. One of their most significant critics, that the International Trade Union Confederation, is currently onside after Qatar agreed to radically improve conditions for the million migrants focusing on cup infrastructure.

The Qatari government and assorted media organisations have also started uncovering proof of a premeditated smear campaign against the nation, aimed at revoking its award of this 2022 World Cup.

The UAE, particularly, has never really gotten over the thought that it should happen to be it rather than Qatar that procured the very first World Cup to be performed at the Arab world, regardless of how it never got around to placing a bid in. The Qatari-Emirati rivalry started way before the 2017 blockade and dates back into the ancient 1970s when both countries were established. It extends to different areas to earth standing regional politics and clout, and now even sports.

The UAE want nothing better than to see that the World Cup hauled from Qatar. It has launched several initiatives to that impact, including bogus news websites and”separate” reports targeted at distributing the storyline that Qatar cannot manage the cup.

Abu Dhabi has also recently stepped up its game together with FIFA President Gianni Infantino. It’s pushing to expand the amount of teams from 32 to 48, an idea that the new FIFA president has supported . Emirati officials have declared they are ready to”cohost” the World Cup, although Infantino has implied that when Qatar agrees to share the matches, it could enjoy better regional relations.

In becoming involved with the dispute between Qatar and the UAE, the FIFA president is going against a major principle that the federation has been committed to – preserving politics out of soccer.

Last calendar year, regardless of the diplomatic crisis between Russia along with also the West,” FIFA went ahead with the World Cup as planned. It also showed tolerance for politics over the pitch\. It disciplined three star players to get political gestures targeted at the stands and fined the Serbian Football Federation after their lovers exhibited”discriminatory banners and messages” through a match against Costa Rica. The Football Association was also slapped with a nice after its fans were involved “fights, throwing objects and homophobic and insulting chants” following their 0-3 overcome by Croatia.

Given its tough stance on these incidents, the FIFA leadership cannot overlook the improper behaviour of these Emirati fans at the Asian Cup and the simple fact that it had been really much jeopardized by official government views along with also the Emirati media warms up anti-Qatar feeling. It should watch closely at its regional figure, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) deals with the problem.

FIFA should not allow the AFC to go simple on the Emirati football government. The simple fact that the president of this AFC, Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, is a senior member of Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family, which is profoundly indebted to the UAE for helping keep their battered economy afloat, should not affect the confederation’s conclusion.

Together with the Emiratis as well as the Saudis demonstrating no interest in finishing the feud with Qatar, Infantino might want to think a bit more before permitting FIFA to become drawn into the dispute. Is still reeling from the corrupt mess left by his predecessor Sepp Blatter. His focus should be about cleanup FIFA’s Augean stables, maybe not blithely accepting the Emirati push to enlarge the World Cup pool by a third in 2022. That is a snare he and FIFA could be wise to avoid.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily signify Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.


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