KUALA LUMPUR, (Reuters) - Asian football officials are monitoring the diplomatic crisis between Qatar and other Arab states, hoping to minimise the impact on international competitions being played in the Gulf region.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, which is to hold the soccer World Cup in 2022. The Saudis have also closed their land border with Qatar and others have blocked access to air space around the wealthy Gulf country.
The Qatari capital Doha has regularly been used by football teams from nations incapable of playing games on home soil due to adverse security situations or as a result of diplomatic rows with other countries in the region. But with ties Qatar and its neighbours severed on Monday, Asian Football Confederation general secretary Windsor John said the continental body was still assessing events.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely, especially when it involves match officials travelling and because Qatar is the host to many of our teams who play in neutral venues,” John told Reuters.
He said there had been no immediate impact since no Qatari clubs were playing in the knockout stages of the Asian Champions League.
“Now we need to check how the neutral venues will be impacted and we will have to go back to the countries that have chosen Doha as a neutral venue to come up with alternatives. We need to make arrangements to deal with the situation and we are watching it very closely,” John said.
Clubs and national teams from Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen have used Qatar as a neutral base to play competitive matches in recent times due either to diplomatic issues with other nations or because of conflicts at home.
The Qatar row, however, means those clubs and national associations will have to seek alternative arrangements while Qatar’s own national team will host South Korea in a World Cup qualifying match in Doha next week.
“At the moment everything we know is from the media, so we also need to talk to our member association in Qatar and find out bad the situation is, or what the actual situation is, so until we get that information we won’t know,” said John.
Representatives of clubs from Saudi Arabia have also been told by their domestic authorities not to talk to Qatar-based broadcaster beIn Sports, one of the AFC’s official outlets, at Tuesday’s draw for the Asian Champions League.
“We can’t force anyone to talk to anyone so as far as we are concerned in any competition it’s the choice of players and officials to speak to anyone or not,” said John.
Reporting by Michael Church; editing by Mark Heinrich