Bitcoin Betting on AFC Asian Cup Football (Soccer)

AFC Asian Cup 2019

Dates: 5-Jan-2019 to 1-Feb-2019

Location: SEVERAL | UAE

From the Far East to the Middle East, the top Asian footballing nations will meet in the UAE to compete for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. The largest tournament field in history, with 24 participating nations, happens across four cities across the UAE (Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah), from 5 January to 1 February 2019.

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About the AFC Asian Cup

Political intrigues surrounding football: Hardly a day goes by without a game between politically hostile states during the Asian Cup. And the FIFA president also receives a protest from Qatar.

When the television commentator once again conjures up fighting spirit and great deeds, the men in the coffee house burst their collars. Lebanon are 0:2 behind against Saudi Arabia and are not showing much football. “Stop fooling us,” one of them shouts to the television and sounds as if he is not only the patriotic commentator of the state broadcaster. Anyone watching the Asian Cup group game in the thick haze of cigarettes and water pipes not only has a tense relationship with the performances of the Lebanese national football team – but also with the Lebanese state itself, which plays in its own league when it comes to questionable performances.

The coffee house is located in “Dahiyeh”, the southern suburbs of the capital Beirut, where Hizbullah (God’s Party) has the say. The Shiite organization is a powerful state within a state. Foreigners are watched suspiciously until it is clear that the media department of “the party” is informed about their visit. It is the kind of restaurant that is said to serve Hizbullah as a news centre for what is going on in the surrounding streets. Only male spectators sit on the plastic chairs, most of whom combine sweatpants with down jackets.

“O my Lord, O my Redeemer”

It is an unadorned draughty room in which the atmosphere only emerges when the Lebanese midfielder Georges Melki sharply elbows his opponent at the edge of violence. He is cheered on by a very Shiite exclamation which translates into German as “O my Lord, O my Redeemer”. The men in the coffee house like the opponent of the Lebanese even less than their own government: Saudi Arabia. “God scored a goal for you,” one poisons after the early 0:1 and alludes to the puritanical state Islam of the Sunni kingdom.

The conflicts in the Arab world also have an impact on the Asian Football Championship that is currently being held in the United Arab Emirates. Sports officials and players from Arab participants have often had to invoke the separation of sport and politics. Bernd Stange, for example, was the German coach of the Syrian national team until a few days ago.

Opponents of the ruler Bashar al Assad complain that this is not Syria’s team, but Assad’s team, which abuses football for propaganda purposes. During the war, players had disappeared into the clutches of the regime and been killed on the battlefields. After the second game, the 0-2 draw against Jordan, the rod was released. Defender Ahmad al Saleh said that Stange was “100 percent” to blame for the results. “The former coach didn’t have the right plans for us, and we see the result.” On Tuesday the Syrians lost 2-3 to Australia without a pole, ending the Syrians’ appearance at an international tournament since the outbreak of civil war in 2011.

Under the sign of political tensions

Political conflicts are reflected particularly strongly in another group. In Group E, in which Lebanon also plays, the Lebanese press has innocently awarded it the title of “Death Group”. Here the unifying power of football quickly reaches its limits in some couples. In addition to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, Qatar is also represented. North Korea is still the least sensitive group participant in this constellation. If Lebanon is sinking on the football pitch against Saudi Arabia, then it’s hard to ignore in Lebanon that Saudi Arabia is exerting massive influence on Lebanese domestic policy, that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman ordered Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to the kingdom in the autumn of 2017, appointed him and forced him to resign. Saudi Arabia is particularly hated in the Hizbullah districts of Beirut because the kingdom is a bitter enemy of the Iranian regime, which in turn promotes and directs the Lebanese Shiite organisation.

But most of all, the game on Thursday will be marked by political tensions as Qatar, the group leader in Abu Dhabi, fights for group victory against Saudi Arabia (17:00 CET). On the other side of the pitch, Qatar, a small but heavy emirate, is an outsider who defies a superior opponent. In June 2017, a quartet led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, without warning, imposed a blockade on its stubborn neighbour and branded its leadership as a terrorist supporter. Qatari citizens were expelled, borders closed, airspace closed. Qatar is to be trimmed and brought into line, to act more hostile towards Iran, to give up its support for the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood, and to moderate its tone with Al Jazira, a mouthpiece of the leadership in Doha.

An end to the crisis in the Gulf is currently not in sight, and so the Qatari national players are now playing in a country that their compatriots are only allowed to visit in rare exceptional cases. “It’s funny that we play in the neighbourhood, but we probably have even fewer fans in the stadium than North Korea,” says a government official in Doha, who does not want to be quoted by name with such a statement. The coach of the Qatari team, the Spaniard Félix Sánchez, has announced that he will “seal off” his players from politics. They have discussed the problems with the team and will now focus on sport, he said at the beginning of the tournament. “In the end, it’s football,” said goalkeeper Saad al Sheeb. A spokesman for the Qatari Football Association spoke of a “message of peace” that could be sent out.

Television broadcasting dispute

But already on their arrival the athletes had felt the blockade. They were forced to fly over Kuwait because there were no direct connections between Qatar and the Emirates due to the blockade. There was also a dispute over Saud al Muhannadi, Vice President of the Qatari Football Association, who is also Vice President of the Asian Football Association (AFC). He was initially unable to fly on from Oman to Dubai and only arrived in the Emirates a day later at the second attempt.

There is also a dispute over the television broadcasts, which has to do with the Qatar crisis. The pay-TV station beIN-Sports, which emerged from the Qatari Al-Dschazira conglomerate, is fighting against a pirate station with the provocative and little subtle name “beoutQ”, which illegally uses its pictures. The angry Qataris point their finger at Saudi Arabia, which in the course of the crisis had banned the broadcast of the beIN programme – and thus also its popular broadcasts of European leagues and competitions -. While consultants of the Saudi leadership advertised beoutQ via their Twitter accounts. In an AFC statement it was announced to take legal action in Saudi Arabia, from where the pirate channel is supposed to broadcast. The World Trade Organization (WTO) recently agreed to an investigation against Saudi Arabia.

And then there is Fifa President Gianni Infantino’s November push to expand the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from 32 to 48 teams. In Qatar, this initiative does not meet with approval, because Infantino is not only considering enlarging the circle of participants, but also that of the organizers. “If we can include some of the neighbouring countries of the Gulf region that are close by to host some World Cup matches, this could be of great benefit to the region and the whole world,” he reiterated in Dubai a few days ago. “There are tensions in this region and it’s up to the respective leaders to deal with them, but perhaps it’s easier to talk about a joint football project than more complicated things”. But because of these “complicated things”, the Qatari leadership has no desire to share the prestige that the hosting of a World Cup brings. Especially not with Saudi Arabia or the Emirates, to whom the Emirate is asserting itself with a lot of effort and money. “Saudi Arabia would certainly like to force its way into the World Cup,” says the Qatari functionary, adding calmly: “But it won’t come to that.