FIFA wades into Gulf crisis, removing Qatari referee from World Cup qualifier
FIFA, the international governing body for soccer, says it has agreed to a request from the United Arab Emirates for Qatari refereeing officials to be prevented from overseeing a World Cup qualifying match due to a diplomatic crisis between the Gulf nations.
The Associated Press reported on Sunday that a referee from Singapore has been drafted in to replace one from Qatar for the UAE's match against Thailand in Bangkok on Tuesday. He will be assisted by a fellow Singaporean and two officials from Malaysia.
FIFA said in a statement that "the decision has been taken for sporting reasons and in view of the current geopolitical situation".
Earlier this week Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut links with Qatar last Monday, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar says the allegations are based on lies.
Despite the change of referee, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said he does not believe that the diplomatic crisis which has embroiled 2022 World Cup host nation Qatar will threaten its staging of the tournament.
In an interview published in Swiss newspapers Le Matin Dimanche and Sonntagszeitung on Sunday, the head of the global football body said he expected the diplomatic situation to be back to normal by the time the tournament is played in five-and-a-half years' time.
Asked if he believed that Qatar's hosting was in danger, Infantino replied: "No. In any case, I am not in the habit of speculating and I'm not going to this time either."
Infantino said that FIFA was watching the situation and was in regular contact with the Qatari authorities.
"The essential role of FIFA, as I understand it, is to deal with football and not to interfere in geopolitics," he said.
"We are indeed facing a diplomatic crisis. But on the other hand, I am confident that the region will return to a normalised situation. The World Cup is in 2022. In five years.
"Obviously, if football can make a small contribution, in any way, to an improvement, I will not hesitate to offer my help."