The Emiratis had progressed to the penultimate match after beating Australia 1-0 in the quarter-final on Friday. Within hours of that victory, Abu Dhabi’s sports council announced it would purchase all remaining tickets for the semi-final match, later offering free tickets to “loyal” UAE fans, local paper The National reported.
This of course meant that no seats could be purchased by Qatari fans, who face high barriers entering the country, including special clearance and two layers of vetting, according to a New York Times report. Previous matches against Qatar during this year’s tournament have been devoid of a Qatari fan presence, the stadiums’ away sections mostly empty.
One spectator, commenting on Twitter from the match, called the night “90 minutes of GCC warfare.”
A number of viewers took to social media to express their disappointment at some of the fans’ performance.
“I love my country very much and I’m a proud Emirati, but how the audience reacted to Qatar scoring was so disrespectful,” one user wrote.
The atmosphere at the stadium was far more charged than during Qatar’s fairly tame match against Saudi Arabia two weeks prior, which saw the Saudis lose 2-0 and featured no aggressive behavior by fans. The Saudis are three-time Asia Cup championship holders, tied in their record with three-time tournament winner Iran.
Qatar will play four-time Asia Cup champion Japan on Friday for the final.