LONDON — The diplomatic standoff between Qatar and its Arab neighbors spilled into the sports activities world as soon as once more Thursday as a Qatari vp of Asia’s soccer confederation was barred from touring to the United Arab Emirates forward of the area’s high event.
Saoud al-Mohannadi, vp of the Asian Football Confederation, was denied permission to journey from Oman to the U.A.E. after airport officers mentioned he wouldn’t be let into the nation. The U.A.E., with Saudi Arabia and a handful of different Mideast nations, broke diplomatic relations and severed all ties with Qatar in 2017.
Mohannadi is the chairman of the A.F.C.’s competitions committee, a gaggle with total accountability for the Asian Cup. Prohibiting him from touring to the U.A.E. is the primary signal that long-simmering political tensions in the Gulf are prone to have ramifications for continent’s largest event.
Mohannadi instantly wrote a letter of grievance to Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa, the Bahraini royal who’s the A.F.C.’s present president. The group mentioned in a press release that it was conscious of reviews that Mohannadi was being denied the proper to journey and that it could examine. The A.F.C. mentioned it had been “assured of visas and entry permits” for event organizing committee members and executives.
The Saudi-led diplomatic dispute with Qatar included the suspension of flights between Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as well as several other countries. Only recently have Qatari citizens been allowed to apply for permission to travel between the two countries. Such travel typically requires a visa and an approval letter from local authorities.
Mohannadi, who in 2017 successfully managed to overturn a one-year FIFA ethics ban, had applied to enter the U.A.E. Local organizers told him he could travel there even though he had not received official clearance, according to people familiar with the matter. He traveled from Doha to Muscat, Oman’s capital, where he was told his clearance was not registered.
The soccer federation in Qatar, which will host the World Cup in 2022, said in a statement that it had reached out to the A.F.C. about the matter. “We will comment further once we have an official response on the incident,” the federation said.
The diplomatic dispute, which exploded in the spring of 2017, has already impacted regional sports. Players and officials on teams from countries opposed to Qatar initially refused to speak to beIN Sports, the Qatari-owned network that owns the rights to the A.F.C.’s events. For much of the past year, BeoutQ, a bootlegging television network, has been unimpeded in broadcasting pirated beIN Sports events using a satellite operator based in Saudi Arabia.
BeoutQ was launched in response to the governments of Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. blocking the sale of beIN Sports as part of a blockade that has closed off air and sea access between the countries.
Mohannadi’s travel plans are unlikely to be the last flashpoint in the 24-team tournament that kicks off on Saturday. The draw, made in May, set up a match between foes Qatar and Saudi Arabia on Jan. 17. It’s unlikely many, if any, Qatari supporters will make the trip to Abu Dhabi.
“That’s almost more difficult to imagine than the U.S. national soccer team playing Iran in Tehran,” said Neil Quilliam, a senior research fellow with the Middle East and North Africa program at London’s Chatham House, a British foreign affairs think tank. “There will be some jittery people in Qatar hoping their players make it home.”
Mohannadi is one of two candidates who will be challenging Sheikh Salman for the A.F.C.’s presidency later this year. The other candidate is Mohammed Khalfan al-Romaithi, a sports official from the U.A.E.