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AFC issues full apology for UAE slur

Confederation regrets racist reference to Emirati national team

The UAE football team plays against Uzbekistan
Image Credit: AP
A player from Uzbekistan team against the UAE team player Ismael Matar (centre) and Hamdan Al Kamali, at Al Shabab Club in Dubai, during the International Friendly match between UAE and Uzbekistan.
Gulf News

Dubai: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has posted a full apology on its website after a previous article referred to the UAE national team using a derogatory term.

The offending story, published on Malaysia-based website last Friday, was a report on the UAE’s chances of qualifying for the 2015 Asian Cup following last Thursday’s draw, which placed the Emiratis with Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

Instead of referring to the UAE national team, nicknamed ‘Al Abyad’ in Arabic, which translates to ‘The Whites’ in English, the reporter referred to a malicious Wikipedia entry.

Providing background information to the UAE team, it read: “The Abyad or [derogatory term] reached the finals in eight editions, with their best performance in 1996 as the hosts when they finished runners-up after losing to Saudi Arabia.”

The AFC has since deleted the offending term from the article and issued a profuse apology. “The AFC apologises for an editorial mistake in which the UAE national team was inadvertently referred to by an inaccurate nickname on the AFC’s official website,” read the apology, posted on Monday afternoon.

“The error, which was mainly because of referral to a popular web-based encyclopedia by the concerned editor, was corrected immediately after it was noticed.

“The AFC would like to apologise for any hurt this might have caused the UAE Football Association and UAE football fans. The UAE FA are one of the AFC’s valued member associations and the AFC will continue to extensively cover the UAE national team and UAE league activities.”

UAE FA president Yousuf Al Serkal, who also happens to be vice-president of the AFC, had earlier told Gulf News: “An apology would be accepted. But it has to be posted on their site as well as officially sent in writing to the UAE FA.

“Action also needs to be taken on whoever wrote it. I don’t think it’s a mistake or mistranslation. Whoever wrote it made sure an Arab audience could read it too.

“I’m very much disappointed with the article and I’m disappointed there’s no governance over what’s posted from AFC officials — definitely articles need to be double-checked. It’s very disgraceful. We’ve always had good relations with the AFC and never expected this from them.

“If we let such terms pass today, next it will be Saudi Arabia or Bahrain that gets insulted. We cannot allow insults to be directed at Arabs.”

A spokesman from the AFC said: “The article was written by a new reporter who was covering the national team for the first time. He went on and saw Al Abyad translated as [derogatory term] and he used that without fact checking.

“He was reprimanded and the reference was removed immediately. It was a really bad day for him and he was mortified by his mistake. But this was a genuine mistake and it has nothing to do with racism.”