Asian Cup and Regional Conflict.

Saudi Arabia vs Qatar. Jordan vs Syria. China vs Philippines. These countries are have diplomatic relations problems and will face in the group stages of the AFC (Asia Football Confederation) Asian Cup 2019.

This soccer tournament will take place in the United Arab Emirates until February 1. The Asian Cup, which began in 1956, is also a competition outside the soccer field and includes territorial disputes, religious conflicts and even proxi war which complicates competition between the 24 participating teams. Here are some of the most fierce matches, including off the field.

Old war wounds between China and Japan.

“This is one of the most unfriendly situations I’ve ever experienced since becoming a manager of players,” said Zico, Japan manager from Brazil. He said during the Asian Cup final between Japan and China in 2004 in Beijing. Zico is a Brazilian soccer legend who is used to the antagonism of South American football. The match was marred by China’s dislike of Japanese action in East Asia at the beginning of the 20th century and the Second World War.

Saudi and Iranian, two enemies meet in the field.

Saudi Arabia’s hostility to Iran is at the top of the political competition. Sports competition has been going on for a long time, both teams have won the AFC Asian Cup three times. The Saudi last won it in 1996, but the conflict was more related to the geopolitical relations of the two countries.

At present tensions are mainly due to the war in Syria, where Tehran supports a fellow Shia government, Bashar Al-Assad. Conflicts also occur in the field. In 2016, Saudi Arabia announced it would not compete in Iran after the attack on the country’s diplomatic mission in Tehran.

Two Koreans.

Fragile peace between two Koreas should also occur in the field. But that is not very real. It is common for Koreans to support both teams. North Korean player Jong Tae-se is also as popular in the south. North Korean media also celebrated South Korea’s success in hosting the 2002 World Cup, and the team reached the semi-finals – the first time for an Asian country. The two Koreas will compete in the 2019 Asian Cup.

Israel is a “European nation” and Australia is an “Asian nation”

These are the two international football teams who have moved from the region. Israel has been under UEFA since 1994, previously joined in the AFC. This Jewish state was boycotted by Islamic countries long ago. Australia moved to the AFC in 2006 to be involved in a more challenging match than its competitors in Oceania.

Japan and South Korea.

Despite being able to host the 2002 World Cup, Japan-South Korea relations are still complicated. 35 years of Japanese rule over the Korean Peninsula (1910-1945) still caused hatred and there were still problems related to forced labor during the occupation. Japan’s victory over Korea in 2013 so that it won the East Asian Cup was overshadowed by a big flag of supporters that read “there is no future for a race that forgets history”.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Other diplomatic issues involving Saudi Arabia will occur on January 17, when they face Qatar. This is the first time the two teams have met since a diplomatic problem caused a blockade under Riyadh’s leadership of the peninsula’s small kingdom. “But in the end, sport is a message of peace,” said Ali al-Salat from Qatar Football Association’s (QFA).

Chinese complicated match

China is placed in Group C together with South Korea. But the match against the Philippines on 11 January was more worrying off the pitch. The Philippines is one of the countries that declared sovereignty in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea which caused conflict with Beijing. Vietnam is another country in this competition which also declares sovereignty over Spratly.

Iran’s conflict with Yemen.

Iran along with Iraq, Yemen and Vietnam are in Group D.
Although relations with Iraq have improved since the fall of Saddam Hussein (2003) and with the election of a Shia-dominated government. But Tehran cannot say the same with Sana’a.

Iran’s relations with Yemen have improved since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlevi was ousted, supporting Yemeni fighters who opposed militant Marxist groups in the 60s. But Iran’s support for Houthi rebels in Yemen who oppose the government backed by Saudi Arabia has exacerbated relations.

Problems in Syria.

Syria’s presence in the competition comes after the 2018 World Cup qualification, when the Arab country almost did not qualify. At this year’s AFC Cup they were held to a 0-0 draw by Palestinians. Damascus and Amman relations became tense because Jordan supported opposition groups and US interference in the Syrian Civil War.

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