By Sports Reporter/Doha
As expected the UAE team has failed to turn up for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-16 Championship Group E qualifiers, which will be held in Doha from today.
Hosts Qatar are clubbed with Yemen, Bangladesh and the UAE but the latter has refused to send the team. In fact, the UAE football federation had requested AFC to swap their team with Iraq from Group D hosted by Nepal, which was declined by the Asian governing body.
The decision comes after the UAE joined Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain in a blockade of Qatar since June 5. While there was no official word from the AFC last night, the governing body is expected to take strong action against the UAE.
In case of a no-show, the UAE team could face stiff penalties, including a possible ban, according to rule No.6 of AFC Competition Regulations.
Ahead of the tournament, the technical meeting of the participating teams was held yesterday but the UAE officials did not attend, prompting AFC officials to inform their higher ups in Kuala Lumpur of the no-show by Emiratis.
An AFC official was tight lipped about the possible action against the UAE but confirmed that he hasn’t heard any word from them.
Meanwhile, a Qatar official said there was no restriction on any team and that it is ready to welcome all the teams. With the UAE’s absence, now each team will play only two matches instead of three. Ten group winners and five best second-placed teams will advance to the finals to be played in Malaysia next year.
Qatar will take on Yemen today at the Grand Hamad stadium, with Bangladesh, who were scheduled to play against the UAE, having a day off. Bangladesh is the lowest-ranked team in the group (196) while Qatar is ranked 85 and Yemen 128 in the latest FIFA rankings.
Yemen coach Mohamed Khatam called the UAE’s no show as unfortunate, and said sports and politics should not be mixed. “We can’t talk much on the issue. It’s for the AFC to decide. In my opinion we should keep politics away from sports,” said Khatam.
Meanwhile, Qatar coach Miguel Medina says his boys are ready for the qualifying campaign. “This will be the first time these boys will be playing in a major international competition. It’s a strong group for this generation of players,” said Medina yesterday.
“We’ve played Yemen during an U14 tournament in Saudi Arabia in 2013. We know their strength and we’ll be ready for them. As the current team has new generation of players, we’re looking for the future. We want to continue with the good results shown by our U23 team in July,” added the Spaniard.
Group E Fixtures
All matches to be played at Grand Hamad Stadium
7:45pm Yemen vs Qatar
4:45pm Bangladesh vs Yemen
7:45 pm Qatar vs Bangladesh
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