Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fifa and Qatar Fall Foul of Fans in Irish Friendly

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fifa and Qatar Fall Foul of Fans in Irish Friendly

Article excerpt

Northern Ireland..........................1 Qatar .............................................1 OPPOSITION to Sepp Blatter's Fifa presidency and the 2022 World Cup reared its head in the unlikely venue of Gresty Road as Northern Ireland fans used their side's friendly with Qatar to make a stand.

The scene in Crewe might have lacked the drama of dawn raids in Zurich, but the Green-and-White Army's repeated chants against Blatter and the Gulf state's status as tournament hosts suggested the football family has not yet moved on from the controversy.

The game itself did little to excite emotion, a low-key 1-1 draw featuring a maiden international goal for Stuart Dallas and a fine equaliser from Qatari substitute Karim Boudiaf.

As a result, Northern Ireland's embarrassing run in friendlies continued - they last won a non-competitive match against Georgia in 2008 and Michael O'Neill is now without success in 10 attempts.

That will hardly be a major concern for him, with a handful of key men rested from the fixture and qualification for Euro 2016 still looking good.

Instead, this game is likely to be remembered predominantly for the songs from the one populated stand - some funny, some profane, all in opposition to Blatter's continued employment and Qatar's 2022 bid.

Blatter was called on to do a variety of biologically unlikely acts, while the Qatari side were asked "how much did you pay for the FIFA World Cup?" On the field, the opening exchanges took place at near walking pace, with Dallas the first man to break a sweat when intercepting Abdelaziz Hatem's loose pass in the eighth minute.

The Brentford winger charged towards goal, but his shot bobbled harmlessly wide.

Northern Ireland should have scored on the quarter-hour when Dallas' hanging cross was fumbled by Amine Lecomite, but although Niall McGinn was quickly on to the second ball his shot was blocked by a defender. …

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