AFC rules Saudi, UAE clubs must play in Qatar

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Asia’s football governing body has shredded the embargo imposed on Qatar by its neighbors, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, by ordering their clubs to play in Qatar.

The order was in respect of the Asian Champions League away matches.

Both the Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates football federations had asked  the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to allow their clubs play the matches in Qatar in a neutral country.

But the AFC decided overnight in Kuala Lumpur that their teams would  play in Qatar and also host Qatari teams.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) ruled all matches would be played on a home-and-away basis as planned.

AFC said the decision to maintain the home-and-away format was made after an independent safety and security assessment was completed.

Saudi authorities previously insisted that their clubs would only play against Qatari sides on neutral territory amid reports they may boycott the tournament.

With the AFC ruling that “clubs from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should be played on a home and away basis in 2018 as per the AFC Regulations”, Saudi club football teams are due to travel to Qatar for away matches beginning next month.

AFC said the decision to maintain the home-and-away format was made after an independent safety and security assessment was completed.

Based on the AFC decision, “the Saudi Federation will facilitate the participation of Saudi clubs in the competition,” said a statement by the Saudi federation on Sunday.

AFC Secretary General Windsor John told AFP that Saudi Arabia has not lifted the travel ban imposed on its nationals against going to Qatar.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal have been placed with Qatar’s Al Rayyan in Group D of the AFC Champions League beginning February 12.

Qatar’s Al Sadd are in Group C along with the UAE’s Al Wasl, while in Group B Qatar’s Al Duhail are pitted against the UAE’s Al Wahda.

The AFC Asian Champions League is the top continental competition for football clubs in Asia.

Qatar is due to host the World Cup in 2022.

Posted by Juliet Ekwebelam (NAN)