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Qatar: Thousands of ticket-holders turned away from Asian Cup final

For most of January, Qatar played the ideal host of the Asian Cup, delighting fans with the perfect mix of football, fireworks and fun.

But the games ended on a sour note Saturday when thousands of fans were reportedly denied entry from Khalifa Stadium to watch the final game between Australia and Japan (Japan won).

Jassim al-Rumaihi, operations director at the tournament, told the Associated Press that the gates were closed five minutes after the match started for security reasons.

But many fans said they showed up early for the match and still couldn't get in.

Online, reports ranged from furious to heartbroken, some going as far as to question Qatar's ability to host the World Cup more than a decade down the road in 2022.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera English sports reporter Andy Richardson, or @AndyR_Sport, said:

Thousands of fans with tickets turned away from #asiancup final. Fans we spoke to said they were given no explanation

He continued:

#Aljazeera camera and disc of footage were taken by police. Camera was eventually returned but disc ‘impounded by internal affairs’

@QueRicco said:

Went to #asiacup with 9 friends. We all had tickets. None of us got in.

@ref_RIJA_rator said:

i was furious!!! we PAID for those tickets shouldn't their priority be the fans??

@78Benjamin

Epic failure @ Khalifa Stadium. Dispatched riot police w/ kids around. Qatar has never been further away from 2022 than last night

On popular social networking site Qatar Living, disappointed ticket holders called on fans to complain to the Asian Football Confederation.

Commenter TT.Boy said:

We all need to highlight the same to Asian Football Confederation that what had happen to Foot Fans in Qatar and ask for refund.

Angry fans also got involved on Facebook, forming a new group called AFC Bump Off on Sunday and attracting some 28 members within five hours of its creation.

The group's description reads, “We waited and waited. we got the tickets and they didnt let us in.”

Not all reacted with indignation. Some quietly accepted last night's disappointment and challenged Qatar to be better.

In the blogosphere, expat Sybil Knox of Qatari Adventures, normally a cheerleader of all things Qatar, said she was too disappointed to say much about Saturday's events. But she added, “I still expect amazing,” borrowing the country's 2022 World Cup bid slogan.

She blogs:

I'm like the mom whose child has done something wrong but can't talk about it because after all, it's my angelic child. The same is happening here. My home away from home, World Cup 2022 hosting country, Qatar, has disappointed me and it hurts. I'm a huge supporter and defender of most all when it comes to this country, so today I fall a bit more silent than usual because I have no answers…

Such a shame, for up until that moment, Qatar had executed a nearly perfect tournament. If one can find the silver lining in all of this, and you know that would be me, Qatar has to have learned a good hard lesson here. You cannot fool the masses. Play the game right and let the chips fall where they may. You have eleven years to work this out, Qatar, so I still Expect Amazing. Don't let me down.

  • QLOC

    On Behalf of the Qatar Local Organising Committee for the AFC Asian Cup 2011™ we apologize to fans that were not able to enter the Final Match and have decided in conjunction with the AFC to refund all ticket-holders who have been denied access to the venue due to Security Closure of Gates.

    Please see the detailed process at tickets.afcasiancup.com for applying for refunds and – as always – please do not hesitate to contact the QLOC at tickets@asiancup2011.com.qa for any further inquiries you may have.

    Kindly be informed that the submission will be from 3rd-28th of February 2011.

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