By Jujhar Khalsa
Diplomatic tensions surrounding Qatar and its neighboring countries in the Middle East have also affected the sports industry.
FIFA removed a Qatari match official from the UAE-Thailand game scheduled for June 13th in Bangkok in response to the formal request submitted by the United Arab Emirates. FIFA will substitute that official with a referee from Singapore who will be joined on the field by another official from Singapore and two Malaysian referees to oversee the match.
FIFA granted the UAE’s request, according to the Associated Press, due to the current diplomatic relations the country has with Qatar.
Last week Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, and Yemen cut off all diplomatic ties with Qatar. They also closed their airspace, airports, and seaports to Qatar.
Qatar’s crisis dated to May when the Qatar News Agency released an apparently hacked press release containing praise for Iran and terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Qatar denied the validity of the statements and claimed they had been placed there by hackers. While the statements attributed to Qatar's ruling emir Sheikh Tamim appear to be false, Qatar ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have long bothered its neighbors. The Muslim Brotherhood is considered a terrorist organization by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt.
“The decision has been taken for sporting reasons and in view of the current geopolitical situation,” said FIFA in a statement to the Associated Press in response to why this decision was made.
Qatar is set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. However, the ongoing blockade may make it difficult to complete the eight stadiums and other infrastructure projects Qatar will need to host that tournament.
Qatar has committed itself to double the size of its airport to accommodate 53 million passengers a year. It has also committed itself to spend some $200 billion to create eight new soccer stadiums. Finally, it has committed itself to the building of a $35 billion metro and rail system.
The long-term continuation of the Qatar diplomatic crisis will put into doubt its ability to host the world’s second largest sporting event.
Jujhar Khalsa is a Contributing Writer for TheDailySportsHerald.com
Qatar World Cup in further doubt as FIFA bows to UAE request
By Jujhar Khalsa