As host of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, the United Arab Emirates suffered a humiliating 4-0 loss to Qatar in the semi-final, ending the UAE’s tournament run and setting Qatar up to face Japan in the final. This heated game, held in Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City Stadium, which many called “Blockade Derby,” may ultimately serve to push Qatar and the UAE even further away from political reconciliation in a day and age in the Gulf in which sports diplomacy is one of the pillars of relations between countries.
During the UAE vs. Qatar game, spectators booed as the Qatari national anthem played and fans pelted the Qatari players with water bottles, shoes and slippers following Qatar’s second, third and fourth goal. Important to note here is the particularly insulting effect of shoe-throwing in Middle Eastern culture. Moroccan-born Ismail Ahmed, an Emirati defender, was removed from the game with a red card for elbowing Qatar's Salem al-Hajri (one of the four on the team originally from Qatar) in the face. Videos of such unsportsmanlike conduct went viral over Twitter, as many reacted emotionally to the game that both sides nervously anticipated.