When the United Arab Emirates take on bitter Gulf rivals Qatar in the Asian Cup semi-finals today, good luck spotting the Qatari fans.
Not only are Qataris largely barred from UAE due to the ongoing Gulf blockade, but the hosts have gone to great lengths to make sure no pro-Qatar supporters sneak in.
In a telling turn of events, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council has snapped up all remaining tickets to give away to "loyal UAE fans", it said in a tweet.
Long queues formed as supporters waited for their free tickets, but only people holding Emirati identification were eligible.
The move appears aimed at preventing a repeat of Qatar's last-16 game with Saudi Arabia, the UAE's staunch ally, when Omani fans turned up to cheer on the Maroons.
It also highlights seething tensions between Qatar and UAE, one of a group of countries enforcing a diplomatic and transport blockade of the 2022 World Cup hosts for allegedly supporting terrorism -- a claim Doha denies.
The result is that Abu Dhabi's 42,000-capacity Mohamed Bin Zayed stadium will be not only a sell-out, but also nearly unanimously behind Alberto Zaccheroni's white-clad team.
The regional rivalry has permeated the tournament, which is only available to watch in UAE via Qatar's subscription-only beIN Sports, which isn't available even in official, tournament-approved hotels.
Qatari fans will, of course, be watching from afar. Qataris need prior permission to visit UAE, and with transport links cut they also need to travel via another country, complicating the journey.*AFP
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