x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Al Ahli in race against time to prove Luis Jimenez eligible for AFC Champions League

Al Ahli officials must provide proof that the Chilean has held a Palestinian passport for more than one year in order to register him for this year's Asian Champions League.

Luis Jimenez holds a Palestinian passport, but whether it meets AFC requirements is another matter. Sarah Dea / The National
Luis Jimenez holds a Palestinian passport, but whether it meets AFC requirements is another matter. Sarah Dea / The National

DUBAI // The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have not rejected Luis Jimenez’s registration for the Asian Champions League as Al Ahli’s Asian player, but merely “suspended” his status pending proof of his eligibility, and the Dubai club believe he will be part of their squad for the continental championship.

Jimenez, a former Chile international, has been playing for Ahli since 2011, but last summer was registered as their Asian player for the domestic competitions after the club discovered his Palestinian origins and the player provided official Chilean documents confirming that assertion.

The midfielder, 29, started his football career at Palestino, a Chilean club mostly made up of players of Palestinian descent, and he received a Palestinian passport last June.

However, according to the AFC Champions League regulations on registration of players, “in cases of registration of naturalised players, the Member Associations concerned must present proof of naturalisation by providing supporting documents issued by the competent authorities of their countries to prove that the player concerned has obtained the nationality at least one year from the Match Day 1 of Group Stage [Group Matches] of the Competition.”

Since Ahli presented copies of Jimenez’s Palestinian passport, which is less than a year old, the AFC put his registration on hold and is seeking further evidence to prove he was a Palestinian national on or before February 24, 2013.

Ahmed Khalifa, the chief executive of Ahli, is confident they have all the paperwork needed to satisfy the AFC and hopes Jimenez will be able to travel to Saudi Arabia for their opening Champions League clash against Al Hilal on February 26.

“The AFC have not refused to register Jimenez, but have suspended his registration procedure until the completion of the required documents to prove he has been a Palestinian citizen for more than a year,” Khalifa said.

The club have been in contact with the Palestinian consulates in Dubai and Chile to get the necessary documents to prove he has been a Palestinian national for a longer period, even though he received his passport only last summer.

“We are working to get the required paperwork done as soon as possible and will send it to the AFC,” Khalifa said.

However, if the AFC refuse to register Jimenez as an Asian player, the club will be forced to play the Champions League with only three foreign players – Grafite, Ciel and Hugo Viana.

“The period for sending the list of players is over,” Khalifa said. “So now we cannot register a replacement and we will have to play with players available on our list. But I am confident about the legitimacy of our position and optimistic that we will be able to complete the registration of Jimenez inside a week.”

arizvi@thenational.ae