Sports court hears UAE challenge to Qatar’s Asian Cup title

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — An appeal by United Arab Emirates soccer officials that could strip Qatar of its 2019 Asian Cup title was being heard at sport’s highest court on Thursday.

A Court of Arbitration for Sport judging panel is weighing the UAE soccer federation’s claim that 2022 World Cup host Qatar fielded two ineligible players to achieve its biggest soccer success.

The appeal seeks to overturn Asian Football Confederation rulings that cleared Qatar of wrongdoing at the tournament hosted by the UAE during ongoing diplomatic tensions between the Middle East neighbors.

A verdict by three CAS judges is likely to take at least several weeks.

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Lawyers arriving at court for the day-long hearing declined to comment.

The UAE has alleged Qatar star forward Almoez Ali and defender Bassam Al-Rawi were not born there and did not meet FIFA nationality requirements to represent the country.

The UAE filed a complaint with the AFC after losing to Qatar 4-0 in the Asian Cup semifinals in Abu Dhabi in January last year.

When an ineligible player case is proven, AFC rules say a team must forfeit the game.

The Asian governing body’s first disciplinary ruling cleared Qatar hours before beating Japan 3-1 in the final. An AFC appeal panel confirmed the initial verdict.

FIFA statutes say players can acquire a nationality if they have “lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant association.”

Both Ali, who turned 23 since the Asian Cup ended, and Al-Rawi, who is now aged 22, seemed not to meet the five-year residency rule.

However, both reportedly claimed their mothers were born in Qatar. That would meet FIFA’s national eligibility standard if a parent or grandparent is born on a territory.

Ali scored against the UAE, and again in the final, for a tournament-leading nine goals. Al-Rawi was suspended for the semifinal but returned to play against Japan.

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