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Court date set for UAE appeal against Qatar’s Asian Cup win

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GENEVA — A legal challenge by the United Arab Emirates soccer federation that threatens Qatar’s 2019 Asian Cup title will be heard at sport’s highest court.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Tuesday it will hear the UAE’s appeal on March 12 in a case that alleges Qatar fielded two ineligible players at the tournament. The Asian Cup was hosted by the UAE during an ongoing diplomatic rift with neighboring Qatar, which will stage the next World Cup in 2022.

A verdict by CAS judges is likely at least several weeks after the hearing in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The ruling could strip Qatar of its biggest success in world soccer, affect key young players in its World Cup planning, and see the UAE inflict an embarrassing loss on a regional political rival.

The UAE filed a complaint with the Asian Football Confederation after a 4-0 loss to Qatar in the Asian Cup semifinals in Abu Dhabi last January.

When an ineligible player case is proven, AFC rules say a team must forfeit the game.

The Asian governing body’s first disciplinary ruling cleared Qatar of wrongdoing hours before beating Japan 3-1 in the final.

UAE officials have appealed to CAS against the Qatar Football Association and the AFC, whose appeal committee also later dismissed the claims of wrongfully submitted documents.

The UAE alleges Qatar’s star forward Almoez Ali and defender Bassam Al-Rawi were not born there and did not meet FIFA nationality requirements to represent the country.

FIFA’s statutes say players can acquire a nationality if they have “lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant association.”

Both Ali, who turned 23 since the Asian Cup ended, and Al-Rawi, who is now aged 22, seemed not to meet the five-year residency rule.

However, both reportedly claimed their mothers were born in Qatar – meeting FIFA’s national eligibility standard if a parent or grandparent is born on a territory.

Ali scored against the UAE, and again in the final, for a tournament-leading nine goals. Al-Rawi was suspended for the semifinal but returned to play against Japan.

They are also club teammates at Al-Duhail, runner-up in the Qatari league last season, and fellow graduates of the state-of-the-art Aspire youth academy in Doha which has educated many players born outside of Qatar.

The latest appeal extends difficulties between the soccer neighbors which showed in a heated semifinals game played 20 months into an economic and travel boycott of Qatar by regional political rivals.

After Qatar took a 2-0 lead in Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium – named for the UAE crown prince – players celebrating the goal had to dodge shoes thrown by some spectators.

The UAE soccer body was later fined $150,000 by the AFC for the fans’ misconduct, including the shoe-throwing and disrespecting the Qatari anthem.

The teams met again in Doha five weeks ago, when the UAE and Saudi Arabia agreed to travel to Qatar to play in the Arabian Gulf Cup, won by Bahrain. Qatar beat the UAE 4-2 in a group-stage game.

USMNT cancels trip to Qatar for January camp

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UPDATE: U.S. Soccer has since announced that the USMNT will hold its training camp the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

The U.S. men’s national team has canceled its trip to Qatar where it was originally scheduled to hold its annual January training camp.

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The decision was announced on Friday and is due to potential destabilization of the Middle East region following the death of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Thursday.

The LA Times first reported that the USMNT will instead hold its January camp in Florida, but the federation has not yet confirmed a new location. U.S. Soccer said in its statement that they are “working with the Qatar Football Association to find an opportunity in the near future for our team to experience Qatar’s world-class facilities and hospitality.”

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According to the Washington Post, the USMNT, which was scheduled to arrive in Qatar this weekend, had planned to play multiple closed-door friendlies while in the country.

The Yanks will kick off their 2020 slate of games with a friendly against Costa Rica on Feb. 1 in Carson, Calif.

Red Bull Salzburg set to play USMNT during January camp

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The United States men’s national team will face Red Bull Salzburg in a scrimmage during January training camp in Qatar.

The fixture is listed on the Salzburg web site.

That means, of course, that Gregg Berhalter will match wits with fellow American boss Jesse Marsch.

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Berhalter announced his roster for the break last week, with 22 MLS-based players joining three others in camp from Jan. 5-25.

Presumably, the Yanks will add a second Qatar-based match.

The camp in Qatar will be followed by a friendly against Costa Rica in California. Qatar will host the 2022 World Cup, and the USMNT begins qualifying in the Hex this Fall.

The Austrian league is on winter break, so Marsch’s men have four friendlies scheduled including the USMNT match. They’ll also face Russia’s Zenit St. Petersburg in Qatar before meeting Poland’s Gornik Zabrze and Austria’s SKU Amstetten in Europe.

Salzburg is yet to lose in league play but holds just a two-point lead over LASK. They have an Austrian Cup quarterfinal on Feb. 9 before meeting LASK on Valentine’s Day and Eintracht Frankfurt on Feb. 20 in the Europa League. That’s a huge ask of a manager.

USMNT to hold camp in Qatar ahead of first 2020 match

USMNT holding camp in Qatar
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The United States men’s national team has announced its opponent for its annual January camp friendly.

Gregg Berhalter’s men will kick off 2020 much like they did 2019, tangling with a CONCACAF B-side team. This time it’s Costa Rica on Feb. 1 in Carson, Calif., a year after Berhalter debuted his team with a 3-0 win over Panama.

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The Yanks, of course, will also have a largely second team side for all of January camp, with European clubs in action and no formal international window.

U.S. Soccer also confirmed that the side will hold camp in Qatar, still somehow home of the 2022 World Cup. The Yanks will be there from Jan. 5-25 to get a first taste of where they hope to be a part of their first World Cup in eight years.

“Utilizing similar opportunities prior to the World Cups in South Africa and Brazil proved extremely beneficial in the team’s planning and preparations,” the team said in a release.

It will be interesting to see how experimental Berhalter’s roster is in January. While most years would see the camp as reason for a heavily inexperienced squad, Berhalter has to prepare his side for the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals and World Cup qualifying. There’s also an Olympics in there, though Berhalter has allowed Jason Kreis plenty of exclusivity with the U-23s.

It’s also worth noting that lot of things associated with the 2022 World Cup are going to feel unsavory for many national teams. Plugging loads of U.S. Soccer resources into Qatar in prep is just the tip of the iceberg. It will get the Yanks better prepped for the tournament.

Investigation: Migrant workers still being exploited on Qatar World Cup jobs

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An investigation conducted by Amnesty International, a British organization focused on human rights, revealed that thousands of migrant workers are still being exploited for unpaid labor and poor living conditions related to construction projects for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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Amnesty’s investigation into three Qatari companies — Hamton International, Hamad bin Khaled bin Hamad and United Cleaning — revealed that at least 1,620 workers had filed complaints over months of unpaid wages. Some were eventually paid a portion of what they were owed in exchange for dropping their cases, while some left the country and returned home with nothing.

Qatari officials had repeatedly promised, after nominal pressure had been applied by FIFA, to enforce stricter standards on company’s regarding their treatment of workers.

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“Despite the significant promises of reform which Qatar has made ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it remains a playground for unscrupulous employers,” Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty International’s deputy director of global issues, said. “Either the reforms are being done very slowly, or they are not being implemented properly or they are not being done at all. As a result of that there are still thousands of workers who are not being paid properly, they are not getting justice, or are living in poor conditions.”