MENA Sports Wrap: UAE rain causes football disruptions

MENA Sports Wrap: UAE rain causes football disruptions
Rain lashed the Gulf this week, causing football games being postponed, but the U-23 Asian Cup went ahead as planned in Qatar.
4 min read
19 April, 2024
There was more sports action in the Gulf, with floods lashing the region [TNA/Getty]

Tragic flooding in the Gulf region caused disruption to football games in the UAE and Oman this week, including a crunch AFC Cup game.

The U-23 Asian Cup also kicked off in Qatar, with hot competition for the trophy, while a Saudi football fan has got into hot water for allegedly striking a player with a whip.

Whip incident sees outrage in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation will review the country’s spectator code of conduct after a fan of Jeddah side Al-Ittihad appeared to whip Moroccan footballer Abderrazak Hamdallah last week.

The incident took place at the end of the Saudi Super Cup final, which saw Al-Ittihad lose 4-1 to Riyadh’s Al-Hilal in Abu Dhabi 

Footage showed Hamdallah throwing water at supporters towards the end of the match, which was then followed by one of the fans appearing to take out a whip and strike the Moroccan player.

The incident caused outrage among football fans with the Saudi FA also saying it was "shocked by the disgraceful scenes".

"Football in Saudi Arabia is a family game and, thankfully, fan disorder is extremely rare," the SAFF stated.

"It's why the actions of this 'so-called' fan go against all that Saudi football represents and we completely condemn the incident."

"There will be a thorough review of the spectator code of conduct. The review will ensure updated rules and regulations are put in place to swiftly and effectively impose suitable penalties to help avoid any repeat of such incidents."

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The incident also triggered a wave of online abuse directed at the Moroccan player, who scored in the match despite Al-Ittihad’s loss.

AFC Cup game disrupted by UAE flooding

An Asian Champions League semi-final clash between Al-Ain and Al-Hilal was postponed by a day after heavy rain lashed the UAE.

The game was supposed to kick off on Tuesday between the UAE’s Al-Ain and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal, in the first leg of the Asian football tournament.

The game was postponed by 24 hours after the UAE experienced the heaviest rainfall in its history, submerging roads and facilities across the Gulf state, including Dubai airport where some Al-Hilal fans were likely flying into.  

The decision to postpone the game by the Asian Football Confederation was welcomed by Al-Ain with one person killed in the floods.

The UAE club wrote: "Al-Ain urged the holders of valid tickets, which allow them to attend tomorrow’s match, to take caution and adhere to the guidelines of the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority in the UAE, and wished that God, the Almighty, would make the rain a blessing, mercy, and abundance of Allah that encompasses the country and brings happiness to all people."

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Al-Ain ended up winning the game in a 4-2 thriller with the second leg to be played in Saudi Arabia on 23 April.

Meanwhile, a UAE Pro League match between Baniyas and Sharjah Cultural Club was also postponed on Wednesday.

Focus returns to Qatar with AFC U23 Asian Cup

The 2024 AFC U23 Asian Cup, the 6th edition of the under-23 men's football tournament, kicked off on 15 April with 16 Asian national teams competing not only to lift the cup but also for a chance to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Not only will the top three teams directly qualify for the Olympics in the French capital, but the fourth-placed team will also compete in a playoff match against their counterpart from the African U-23 Cup.

Just two months ago, Qatar claimed victory at the iconic Lusail Stadium, securing the Asian Cup title with a 3-0 win over Jordan in the final. Now, it's their U23 team's chance to pursue glory.

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Qatar faced Jordan on Thursday after beating Indonesia in their opening group fixture earlier this week.

Qatar head coach Ilidio Vale said the first target for his team would be to win one of the three automatic Olympic qualification slots, adding that the senior team had provided a morale booster for the U23s.

"The goal of this tournament is to qualify for the Olympics. It is good exposure to compete with the best teams in Asia, and I believe everyone should make the best of this time whether you’re a coach, player or administrator," said Vale.

Saudi Arabia are the current champions, having beaten Uzbekistan 2-0 in the final in 2022.

The tournament, held in Qatar, will run until 3 May.