Concerns surround what affect the UAE’s flight ban could have on other major sporting events, mainly the 2022 World Cup.

A report has uncovered a worrying issue involving the blockade against Qatar and major sporting events affected by its no-fly zone.

According to the Associated Press, Qatar’s soccer players were recently involved in a circuitous flight route to the UAE via Kuwait, lasting more than five hours to attend the Asian Cup. Such a flight route normally takes less than an hour!

What’s more, concerns surround what affect the UAE’s flight ban will have on other major sporting events, mainly the 2022 World Cup.

Having cut diplomatic, economic and travel ties with Qatar in June 2017, the UAE made no exemptions to smooth the journey for the Asian Cup team. Experts believe it doesn’t bode well for the officials, teams and hundreds of thousands of fans planning World Cup trips.

The diplomatic row has affected travel and business in the region for more than a year, and the rivals clash today in an Asian Cup match that means much more than just football.

As the Qatar FA we believe that football is a message of peace”, spokesman Ali Hassan Al-Salat said. “The slogan of the competition is, ‘Bringing Asia Together.”

The federation has barred players from discussing anything that touches on politics, and both sides have avoided the topic, but it’s still very much in the air.

Qatar could also face Saudi Arabia in the tournament. “We are against mixing sports with politics,” said Turki Al-Awad, a Saudi Arabia Football Federation board member. “It’s a football game and shouldn’t be anything else.”

Saudi Arabia is behind the regional boycott of Qatar, along with Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE. All four accuse the state of forging close ties with Iran and supporting terrorism. Qatar has consistently denied the accusations.

The report published in the Washington Post states that sport has been a crucial part of the pursuit of supremacy in the Persian Gulf, and the fate of Qatar’s 2022 World Cup hosting and even broadcasting rights are at stake due to the blockade.

Qatar state-owned broadcaster beIN Sports is the exclusive Middle East rights holder of the Asian Cup. But many viewers across the region will not be watching the official broadcast, instead they can watch a pirated version from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia-based BeoutQ has been broadcasting bootlegged feeds of beIN since 2017, but Saudi officials say the government does not condone the practice. However, beIN has published fresh evidence of what it claims to be Saudi-backed illegal broadcasts.

The dispute continues.

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Author

Ahmed Naser is a UK-based journalist with a deep understanding of the Middle East. Ahmed is a contributor to a wide range of regional publications in the Middle East. He works across print and digital media as a freelance editor and writer.

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