The allegations and counter-allegations in the case involving Ali Essa Ahmed mirror the wider dispute still roiling Gulf Arab countries as the UAE and others continue to boycott Doha. Qatar ended up winning the tournament in a match that saw Emiratis throw shoes at players on the pitch, something deeply offensive in Arab culture.
Activists, including the for-hire advocacy group Detained in Dubai, allege Emirati police arrested and beat Ahmed for wearing the jersey. Since the diplomatic dispute began in June 2017, the UAE has made showing sympathy to Qatar a criminal offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $136,000 fine. Qatari citizens were barred from attending the Asian Cup amid the dispute.
Activists say Ahmed's arrest happened after he watched Qatar face Iraq in a Jan. 22 match held at Abu Dhabi's Al Nahyan Stadium. However, a statement late Tuesday from the UAE's Embassy in London said Ahmed walked into a police station in Sharjah to report he had been harassed and beaten. Sharjah is an emirate some 140 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of the stadium.
Ahmed claimed he "had been harassed and beaten up by UAE national football fans for cheering the Qatar team at the AFC club tournament," the embassy said. "The police took him to (the) hospital, where a doctor who examined him concluded his injuries were inconsistent with his account of events and appeared to be self-inflicted."
Ahmed was charged Jan. 24 and "he has since admitted those offenses," the embassy said. "Mr. Ahmed speaks Arabic and fully understands the situation he has put himself in." The British Foreign Office said Wednesday it was "providing assistance to a British man arrested in the UAE and are touch with the local authorities."