British Fan Wearing Qatar Jersey Caught in Middle of Gulf Spat, Activists Say

(Bloomberg) -- A British soccer fan has been caught in the middle of a bitter rivalry between two of the richest Arab states.

Ali Issa Ahmed was detained in the United Arab Emirates and beaten after wearing a shirt supporting the team of its regional rival Qatar, according to Detained in Dubai, a U.K.-based activist group. The BBC cited the nation’s embassy in London as saying Ahmed was “categorically not arrested for wearing a Qatar football shirt,” and was charged for wasting police time and making false statements.

U.A.E. officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Ahmed was taken into police custody during an Asia Cup match between Iraq and Qatar and was later charged with lying when he sought to file a complaint about it, Detained in Dubai said. Qatar defeated Iraq 1-0 on Jan. 22.

Showing support for Qatar has been punishable with up to 15 years in the U.A.E. since a Saudi-led boycott on the gas-rich state was imposed in June 2017, but prosecution of offenders is rare.

Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Egypt accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism, a charge it denies. Qatar won the Asia Cup last week in a historic first, beating both Saudi Arabia and hosts U.A.E.

U.A.E. fans hurled sandals at Qatari players in their 4-0 match against the home team. The U.A.E. later filed a complaint with the Asian Football Federation questioning the eligibility of some of the winning team’s players.

Qatari citizens are barred from entering the boycotting countries and couldn’t attend the games in Abu Dhabi.

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