The UAE national side beat Hong Kong 4-0 at the Mong Kok Stadium in a qualifier for the 2015 Asian Cup yesterday, but officials were unhappy that the game took place on the Muslim holiday.
“It would have been better if AFC, out of deference to religious occasions, had chosen another day other than Tuesday, which marks the beginning of Eid Al Adha, which is observed by all Muslims,” Obaid Al Shamsi, vice president of the UAE FA and head of the mission to Hong Kong, told the state news agency Wam before the game.
The draw for the qualifying campaign was done in October last year so there has been ample time to lodge an objection, although an exact date for the start of the Eid Al Adha holidays is not known until nearer the time.
Football fans were divided on the matter yesterday.
“Fifa would never expect the England team to play on Christmas Day, so why should UAE play in Eid?” Susan Young asked on her Twitter account.
Rawah M agreed when he tweeted: “If England or America don’t play on Christmas, then why should the UAE play on Eid?”
But Abdulrahman Abdi tweeted: “The world doesn’t revolve around us or our calendar of occasions. If it is an international game, just go to work.”
K Al Fahim wrote: “The real question is where was the UAE FA when the timing was decided? Everybody knows when Eid is.”
And Abu Dhabi’s Darren Ball tweeted: “Americans play on Thanksgiving and England play Boxing Day. Train on Xmas day also.”
A representative from the UAE FA, who asked not to be identified, said Mr Al Shamsi was not referring to yesterday’s game specifically.
“He was referring to games to be played in future and that they should not be played on this day. The match today went ahead as planned,” he said.
Dr Ahmed Al Kubaisi, head of Sharia studies at UAE University, said the issue could be interpreted in many ways.
But Dr Al Kubaisi said there were no rules forcing a non-Muslim country to observe Islam’s regulations.
“There are Muslim countries that vary on when Eid starts,” he said.
“For instance, in Iran today is not Eid, so even if the match were held in a Muslim country, they could not be observing Eid.
“So how about non-Muslim countries? And Islam does not enforce its opinion on non-Muslim countries, this is their own affair.
“However, out of protocol and sports justice and courtesy, they could have been considerate enough to schedule the match on another day so the players can celebrate their Eid.”
Before yesterday’s match, the UAE national side had two wins from two matches in Group E of the qualifiers after 2-1 wins away to Vietnam and at home to Uzbekistan this year.
After yesterday’s win, the UAE team will again face Hong Kong and then Vietnam at home next month before an away game with Uzbekistan in March.
The UAE must finish in the group’s top two to progress to the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.