DOHA // Fans looking for shirts, hats or even a replica of the cute desert rat mascots from the Asian Cup are likely to leave Qatar empty-handed.
No such items are being sold at Asia's premier football tournament - not at the stadiums, or even at the Asian Cup stands in the malls. Unlike other tournaments such as the World Cup, organisers made no arrangements to sell merchandise, although they did give away memorabilia to the media, volunteers and visiting dignitaries.
Fans can buy souvenirs celebrating Qatar, such as maroon and white scarves, flags and replicas of the World Cup trophy in honour of its hosting the 2022 tournament. There are also photos on sale of the Al Thani ruling family, and a scarf featuring portraits of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar.
Local organisers say they failed to persuade World Sports Group (WSG), the marketing and media partner of the Asian Football Confederation, to sell souvenirs.
"It doesn't look nice without merchandise," said Jassim al-Rumaihi, the operations director at the tournament. "But it wasn't in our control. We tried to convince WSG to have merchandise but they are still having strict regulations on this."
Tokuaki Suzuki, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) competitions director, said a meeting with the Qatar organising committee and WSG was convened over the issue on Tuesday but produced no breakthroughs.
Suzuki said the WSG, which has the rights to sell merchandise, told the AFC that it could not reach an agreement on sales with Qatar ahead of the tournament, and also that it did not feel there was much of a market for souvenirs at the competition which struggled in the early stages with poor attendances.
Suzuki said: "We respect the decision made by the World Sports Group and QLOC [Qatar Local Organising Committee]. So it's OK for us that they are not selling merchandise."