The Qatari team beat the Saudis comfortably, securing a 2-0 win in a match which extended far beyond the football stadium

Qatar has beaten Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup football tournament held in the UAE.

The Qatari team beat the Saudis with an impressive performance, securing a 2-0 win in a match which extended far beyond the realms of the football stadium.

The meeting was the first soccer match between Saudi Arabia and Qatar since the start of the Saudi-led siege almost two years ago.

According to The New York Times, the dispute, and the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, has so divided countries in the region that even the pre-match music at the tournament was viewed through that prism.

At other matches at the Asian Cup, the soundtracks included music from the participating countries. That was not the case at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Thursday, where the sound system blasted western dance music in an effort to avoid even the risk of inflaming tensions between rival supporters.

The support for Qatar was limited to a Korean woman, a male student from China and a band of Omanis who arrived during the second half after acquiring free tickets.

Due to the blockade, almost no Qatari fans have been able to travel to the tournament amid the ban imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain.

Entry into the UAE has been almost impossible, and the blockade continues to cause flight and travel problems not only for Qataris, but for those wanting to visit the country.

In the end, the game was largely tension-free until Qatar’s exuberant on-field celebrations led to a minor clash with a despondent Saudi striker, one of few players from his team who did not head straight to the dressing room after the referee blew the final whistle.

Following the match, coaches from both teams played down the political cloud that hung over the game, brushing aside questions related to matters out of their control, instead choosing to focus on the next match. Qatar, which won the group, will now face Iraq. Saudi Arabia will face Japan.

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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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