UAE lodge formal protest with AFC over eligibility of two Qatar players at Asian Cup

FA allege that Almoez Ali, a 22-year-old striker born in Sudan, and Bassam Al Rawi, a 21-year-old defender born in Baghdad, have breached Fifa rules

Qatar's forward Almoez Ali (L) celebrates his goal during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup semi-final football match between Qatar and UAE at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on January 29, 2019.  / AFP / Roslan RAHMAN
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The UAE Football Association has lodged a formal protest with the Asian Football Confederation over the eligibility of two Qatar players, one of which was involved in Tuesday's Asian Cup semi-final defeat, that could see the Qataris thrown out of the tournament.

News of the appeal was first reported by Al-Ittihad on Wednesday evening. The FA allege that Almoez Ali, a 22-year-old striker born in Sudan, and Bassam Al Rawi, a 21-year-old defender born in Baghdad, do not qualify to play for Qatar on residency grounds because they have not lived continuously in the Gulf state for at least five years over the age of 18.

Article 7 of the Fifa statute states a player is eligible to play for a representative team if he has "lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant association".

The AFC on Thursday confirmed in a statement it had received a protest from the FA regarding the eligibility of the two players. The protest will now be reviewed in line with the AFC Regulations, it said.

Qatar beat the UAE 4-0 on Tuesday to book their place in Friday's final against Japan. Ali played in the match, scoring the second goal at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, while Al Rawi was suspended for the match.

Despite his ban, Al Rawi played a huge part in getting Qatar to the semi-finals, scoring the only goal against Iraq, the country of his birth, in their quarter-final win last week.

The FA lodged an appeal with the AFC, Asian football's governing body, within two hours of Tuesday's match finishing and were given 48 hours to provide evidence.

Ali and Al Rawi both claim their mothers were born in Qatar, but the FA claims it has documents proving Al Rawi's mother was born in Baghdad and will submit its evidence to the AFC Disciplinary Committee on Thursday.

Both players have been integral to Qatar's run to the final; Ali is the tournament's top scorer with eight with Al Rawi has been part of a defence yet to be breached in six games.

According to the AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Code, the penalty for fielding an ineligible player is forfeiting the match and a fine.

The AFC also has the power to exclude teams from a future competition if the ineligibility is discovered after a tournament, the document says.

Qatar have naturalised a huge number of players in recent years, including players born in Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Tanzania, Iraq and Portugal.