KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: The United Arab Emirates effectively put an end to talk of the 2022 World Cup being split among the Gulf nations after senior Qatari official Saoud al-Mohannadi was barred from entering the country for the Asian Cup which kicks off tomorrow/Saturday.
Al-Mohannadi is a vice-president of not only the Qatar Football Association which will host the 2022 World Cup but also of the Asian Football Confederation. He chairs the AFC organising committee of the Asian Cup which the UAE itself is hosting.
He has sent a letter of protest to Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khelaifi, president of the AFC and a vice-president of world federation FIFA.
Coincidentally – or not – Al-Mohannadi and Mohamed Khalfan Matar Saeed Alromaithi from the UAE are challenging Sheikh Salman for the AFC presidency at an election congress in April.
The latest confrontation between sport and politics came only one day after a conference in Dubai at which FIFA president Gianni Infantino had held open the possibility of expanding the 2022 World Cup finals from 36 to 48 teams and thus sharing matches around the Gulf.
The Qatari national team are one of the Asian Cup finalists but the squad have yet to fly to the UAE.
Qatar has insisted that any decision on expansion rested with FIFA which is undertaking a feasibility study into the issue with a decision due from its governing council in March.
For the past two years Qatar has been subject to a political and economic boycott by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.
Saudi sports officials have suffered several setbacks in the past months over politically-motivated attempts to meddle in the governance of Asian and world football.