This past week we received troubling communication that national team stalwarts Ashraf Nu'man and Abdelhamid Abuhabib would not be able to play due to yellow cards picked up in the Challenge Cup semifinal and final.
Full story after the jump...
This important information was brought to our attention by our friends at the excellent Palestine national football team Facebook page.
It occurred to us that this decision represented an inconsistency on the part of the Asian Football Confederation. Yes, winning the AFC Challenge Cup would guarantee participation at the 2015 Asian Cup but these competitions were separate from one another.
A review of the statistics on the AFC Asian Cup website had Ashraf Nu'man and Abdelhamid Abuhabib conspicuously absent from the top scorers chart despite having tallied four goals apiece in Challenge Cup qualifying and the tournament proper.
We also took advantage of the transparency shown by the AFC in publishing the regulations of each competition on their site. We noted that although a double yellow received in Asian Cup qualification would carried over no specific mention was made in relation to the AFC Challenge Cup. Here's an excerpt from each regulatory guidebook:
Section 10 (Asian Cup 2015 Competition Regulations)
57. Players and Officials cautioned or dismissed from the field of play
a) A player who receives two (2) cautions (yellow cards) during the
Competition shall automatically be suspended from the Match following
the Match in which he received the second caution. If the player receives
the second caution during the Team’s last match in the Qualifiers, the
suspension will be carried forward to the AFC Asian Cup 2015 Finals if
qualification has been attained.
Section 10 (AFC Challenge Cup Maldives 2014 Regulations)
a) A player who receives two (2) cautions (yellow cards) during the [Challenge Cup] Qualifiers or [Challenge Cup] Finals shall automatically be suspended from the Match following the Match in which he received the second caution.
The AFC was forced to follow precedent here because in previous competitions yellow cards would carry over to the next edition of the Challenge Cup. After Palestine became the final team to hoist the Challenge Cup the competition was deprecated leaving those pesky yellow and red card suspensions nowhere to go.
We communicated this through intermediaries to the Palestine Football Association and after an appeals process the suspensions handed down to Abdelhamid Abuhabib and Ashraf Nu'man were overturned. Both players had been harshly booked for time wasting in the final 10 minutes of the Challenge Cup final.
The decision represents a victory for football fans eager to see the clash between East and West Asia when Japan faces Palestine in Newcastle on January 12th.