Qatar risk Fifa action after T-shirt protest amid diplomatic crisis in Gulf
Players prepare for game against South Korea in Doha wearing white shirts emblazoned with profile portrait of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani
Qatar’s national team could face disciplinary action from Fifa after players warmed up for a World Cup qualifier against South Korea in T-shirts showing support for the country’s emir.
The players prepared for the crucial game in Doha wearing white shirts emblazoned with a profile portrait of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.
The image has become a widely-used symbol of defiance by Qataris in response to the current diplomatic crisis in the Gulf which has seen Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and others cut all ties with Doha.
The T-shirt was also waved by attacking midfielder Hasan Al-Haydos after he put the Qataris 1-0 ahead from a free-kick in the 25th minute.
After scoring Haydos sprinted to the touchline and held up a T-shirt to the crowd.
The show of support from the national football team comes during the worst diplomatic crisis witnessed in the Gulf for years.
Saudi and its allies claim they have moved in response to Qatar’s support for “terrorism”, a charge strongly denied by Doha, which says the diplomatic isolation is “unjust”.
Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup finals.
Fifa bans any unsanctioned political, religious or commercial messages on shirts.
Earlier this week in response to the Gulf crisis, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said football’s governing body does “not interfere in geopolitics” and gave his support for the 2022 tournament going ahead in Qatar.
Afterwards, Qatar’s Uruguayan coach Jorge Fossati defended his players and then condemned the “ridiculous situation” of the “blockade” on the emirate.
“I don’t see something that can receive a punishment as it is a T-shirt with a picture of the emir,” he said. “It doesn’t say anything against anybody.”
He added: “I can’t agree with the blockade that is against the people, against the families, many families are damaged, they really don’t deserve this.”
However, there was more drama with Fossati stunning his own federation by apparently resigning moments after his team had beaten South Korea to keep the Gulf nation’s slim World Cup hopes alive.
As a press conference ended early after the 3-2 win, Fossati thanked the Qatari people and journalists in what sounded like a goodbye speech.
Asked by stunned journalists if the game in Doha was his last as national coach, he replied: “Most probably.”
Following the press conference and cornered outside the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, where his team had just won to retain the slimmest of hopes of qualifying for Russia, Fossati told reporters it was time for a change.
“If the federation agrees, I don’t want to stand in anybody’s way,” he said. “I don’t like to leave the national team but sometimes you must do what you think is right, not what is best for you. You cannot put yourself ahead of everybody.”
He added that Qatari football officials needed to put a long-term plan in place for its development as a football nation.
His announcement seemed to surprise even his own federation. It was announced on Twitter that Qatar Football Association boss Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Thani was “surprised” by Fossati’s remarks and would only make a final decision after speaking to the Uruguayan.
To muddy the waters a little further, Fossati said he would be willing to help the national team in any capacity if asked.
“I love Qatar, I want the best for Qatar.”