UAE football supporters have been offered free tickets for the Asian Cup semi-final following the national team's good run in the tournament.
The tickets, for the semi-final against Qatar, were being given out starting today at 10am to "loyal" UAE fans, but are now sold out in Sharjah, Dubai, Fujairah, Al Ain and Ras Al Khaimah.
Security in Abu Dhabi said there were only enough tickets for half the queue as of Sunday afternoon, but fans queued on regardless, with more arriving.
Fans' hopes were boosted when the UAE, despite a shaky start in the group stages of the competition, raised their level of play considerably and knocked out defending champions Australia in the quarter-final on Friday night.
Hours after Ali Mabkhout's strike propelled them into the last-four stage, Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, directed that all remaining tickets for the semi-final be purchased by his organisation.
In a tweet, he said: “We congratulate our distinguished leadership and the UAE citizens on our national team’s victory and for qualifying for Asian Cup 2019 semi-final.
“The Whites [UAE] have proven to be superstars by demonstrating determination, will and courage to uphold the homeland banner and this is an ultimate goal. We wish them success in their upcoming journey.”
Supporters attending Tuesday's game, at the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, are likely to be backing the national team in overwhelming numbers as the UAE bid to win and improve their best performance in the competition's history – a second-place finish in 1996 when they were the hosts too.
Those who visited the Sports Council offices on Sunday reported long queues and that only one ticket would be issued per person.
A tweet from the Sports Council stated: “Under the directives of Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi Sports Council announces that it has purchased all the remaining tickets of our team’s match in the semi-final and they will be offered to the UAE loyal fans. Tickets will be distributed in the council’s headquarters starting Sunday, January 27, from 10am to 10pm.”
Only a tiny number of Qatar fans have been in attendance at their side's games so far.
Qatar also managed to beat South Korea, who were one of the favourites for the tournament.
Distribution hubs for the tickets have been set up across the country. They are Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, Al Wasl Club in Dubai, Sharjah Club and Emirates Football Club in Ras Al Khaimah.
Fans seeking tickets have been advised to bring their national ID.