ABU DHABI // The national football association has been fined Dh25,420 for crowd trouble during the recent World Cup qualifying defeat against North Korea. Home fans threw bottles of water and rubbish onto the pitch shortly after a Korean striker, An Choi-hyo, scored his team's second goal in the 81st minute. The 2-1 defeat on Sept 6 at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi dealt a serious blow to the UAE's hopes of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Fifa, football's world ruling body said it had imposed the fine of 8,000 Swiss francs after investigating the referee's report. During the trouble, an assistant referee and the Korean goalkeeper, Ri Myong-guk, had to dodge juice containers and plastic bottles filled with water. Fans said a Korean player receiving treatment for a separate injury was struck in the chest by a water bottle, but was unharmed. Supporters calmed down following police intervention and after UAE players appealed directly to the crowd, although more missiles were thrown onto the pitch after the final whistle.
A water bottle narrowly missed an Emirati ball-boy, who then gestured angrily to the crowd. Although Fifa insisted it had notified the UAE Football Association, Yusuf Abdulla, the association's secretary, claimed it had not received any communication from the governing body. "We have not received any such notice from Fifa," he said. "We explained the situation to them and we have not got any reply since.
"It was just a minor incident, a normal reaction from the fans, which happens all over the world. Of course, this is not to say that it should happen in the future. "We are going to make sure such incidents are not repeated. There was a much larger crowd during the [following] game against Saudi Arabia and there were no untoward incidents. That proves that the UAE fans are well behaved. They love their football and respect the opposition."
After talks between the stadium managers and Abu Dhabi Police, fans were banned from taking drinks containers into the stands for the match against Saudi Arabia three days later. The UAE lost 2-1 again and, at one point, television cameras showed a watch being thrown towards the referee from the home stand. The incident was not included in the referee's report and therefore no further action was taken by Fifa.
The national team then suffered a 4-1 defeat in South Korea earlier this month, ending their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup finals. The fine is low by football bodies' usual standards, but can be seen as a first warning. Repeat offenders are often struck with higher fines, or made to play matches without spectators. In September 2005, Fifa fined the Croatian Football Federation 55,000 Swiss francs after their fans ripped out seats and threw them onto the pitch during a World Cup qualifier in Malta.
In the same year, after fans threw bottles and coins during a World Cup qualifier against Ukraine, the Albanian FA was fined 40,000 Swiss francs by Fifa and ordered to play two games without spectators. After the match against North Korea, Rashid al Zaabi, a director of the UAE Football Association, said: "We are very upset by the reaction of our fans." Obeid al Muhairi, a Federal National Council member from Sharjah, said: "It is bad behaviour, uncivilised, and does not show any sense of belonging to the nation."