Qatar’s Abdelkarim Hassan celebrated his country’s maiden Asian Cup title with an Oman flag draped over his shoulders on Friday, a graphic recognition of the support the Omanis have given the team throughout a difficult tournament.
A deep political rift in the Gulf means Qataris, who used to travel freely to the United Arab Emirates, are banned from entering the country without a special permit and that resulted in almost none travelling to support their team.
They will get their chance to show what the victory means to them in Doha on Saturday but in their absence at Zayed Sport City, thousands of Omanis turned out to cheer them to a 3-1 win over Japan.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt cut ties with Qatar in June 2017. They allege that Doha supports terrorism, which Doha denies. Oman has taken a neutral position in the row.
“We were here in the UAE and there were no fans and then the Omani fans started coming out to support us and were are very grateful,” Player of the Tournament Almoez Ali told reporters.
“We thank them.”
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani congratulated the team on their first continental title on Twitter, describing it as an “historic achievement”.
“Tomorrow is going to be the official celebration with everybody,” midfielder Assim Omer Madibo told reporters.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. I’m very happy we made the Qatari people proud of this team,”
Qatar enjoyed the support of a few dozen Omanis during their 4-0 semi-final thrashing of the UAE, when sandals and plastic bottles were thrown at Qatar players by Emirati supporters.
At the final, they turned out in huge numbers with maroon scarves emblazoned with the world ‘Qatar’ in Arabic over their heads. Others held joint Qatar and Oman flags.
A group of Omanis, some wearing the maroon scarves, told Reuters before the match they estimated six thousand Omanis were coming to the game.
“We should support Qatar because we are all Arabs,” said another Omani, Nasir, who did not give his last name.