Qatar players cleared in eligibility row before Asian Cup final

Qatar’s players warming up ahead of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup final football match between Japan and Qatar at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Feb 1, 2019. (AFP pic)

ABU DHABI: Asia’s football body dismissed a protest claiming two Qatari players, including Asian Cup top-scorer Almoez Ali, were ineligible to play just hours before the final on Friday.

The decision, which follows a protest lodged by Asian Cup hosts the United Arab Emirates, was announced as Qatar prepared to take the field against Japan in Abu Dhabi.

“The Asian Football Confederation disciplinary and ethics committee today dismissed the protest lodged by the United Arab Emirates Football Association over the eligibility of two Qatar players,” an AFC statement said.

No details were given about the reasons for the protest or the dismissal. Ali, 22, who has a record-equalling eight goals in the tournament, was born in Sudan, while defender Bassam Al-Rawi, 21, was born in Iraq.

The UAE made its protest after the home side were thrashed by Qatar, their arch-rivals, in a stormy semi-final that saw the winning team pelted with shoes and plastic bottles.

According to the AFC’s Disciplinary and Ethics Code, teams who field an ineligible player can be made to forfeit the match in question and pay a fine.

Ali has played in all six games of Qatar’s run to their first Asian Cup final, matching the record held by Iranian legend Ali Daei with his eight goals so far.

Both players were named in Qatar’s starting line-up for the final at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium.