Hundreds of UAE football fans queue up for free Asian Cup tickets
Thousands of tickets for the semi-final clash against Qatar were handed out in Abu Dhabi
Hundreds of UAE football fans queued up in the blazing sun on Sunday in the hope of being given free tickets to their side’s coming clash against Qatar.
A vast line of supporters stretched around the side of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council in Zayed Sports City from shortly after 9am.
Last week, the council announced it would purchase all the remaining tickets to the semi-final showdown this Tuesday and give them away for free.
Stunned fans - thrilled by their unexpected victory over Australia in the quarter-finals - rushed to grab the up to 18,000 giveaways. Some 5,000 were given away in Abu Dhabi.
"I’ve been here since 9.45am when there were around 300 people in front of me," said Mohammed Abdullah, 32.
"At the beginning of the tournament we weren't so enthusiastic because our team wasn't performing that well.
"But after we defeated Australia, everything changed. Now our eyes are set on the final."
Mr Abdullah said he had watched all four of the UAE’s games in the Cup so far.
He said the support of fans at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain had proved critical to the team’s success over Australia.
“It's because fans can get so close to the pitch and really connect with players,” he said.
Musab Al Housani, 28, said he was prepared for a long wait given the size of the queue.
But he insisted his patience would pay off, and that the UAE was sure to beat their Gulf rivals in what would definitely prove a sporting extravaganza.
“I've attended all the UAE’s matches so far in the tournament and I think both the team and the fans are progressing," he said.
"Because nobody has scored any goals against Qatar this tournament they’ll be over confident,” added his friend Omair Al Housni, 24. “That's when our team will get them.”
Mohammed Saleh, a 26-year-old businessman who was also in the queue, predicted a 2:1 win for the Emirates.
He said the match "would be difficult" for both squads but that the UAE side was on the up.
“Gulf teams play against each other often so they already know each other’s techniques,” he said. “But our team achieved victory over Australia so that's a good sign.”
As time ticked away in the sunshine, fans remained upbeat that spare tickets were still being given out.
Officials at Abu Dhabi Sports Council said anyone was eligible – UAE residents and Emiratis alike.
"We’ll wait for as long as it takes," said Ibrahim Moawia, 26, from Sudan, who was with two friends.
"It’ll be the first time I see a football match in the UAE and it’s such a critical game that I want to show my support.
"I’m hoping the UAE will win 2:1 because there are some flaws in the Qatari team's defence.”
So far in the tournament, only a small number of Qatar fans have attended their side’s games. The team beat South Korea, one of the favourites, in the quarter-finals.
Inside the ticket tent in Abu Dhabi, women who wanted to see the match were dealt with straight away, without having to queue.
Yan Guo, a 40-year-old sales executive from China, arrived with two friends.
"I’ve been living in the UAE for five years and I want their team to win,” she said. “This is my second home.”
By 3pm, organisers announced that all the free tickets had been given away.
Updated: January 28, 2019 11:55 AM