There’s nothing quite like a good away day at the football….that is, until you are arrested for one of the most petty and scarcely believable laws ever made.
Ali Issa Ahmad, from Wolverhampton, was visiting the United Arab Emirates to watch some of the matches taking place in the AFC Asian Cup.
Bedecked in a Qatar shirt after supporting their national side to a 3-1 win in the final over Japan, the Brit was rather bemused to be arrested immediately following the game.
The 26-year-old had been detained for ‘showing sympathy to Qatar’, which is strictly forbidden in the UAE!
The country is in a group of four, which also features Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, that have taken a political and diplomatic stand against Qatar, who they accuse of supporting radical Islamic groups.
The bloc of four Middle Eastern countries has issued a list of 13 demands that Qatar must abide by if they are to withdraw their current boycott.
And after they met in the semi-finals of the Asian Cup, shoes and missiles were thrown at the Qatar players after they had beaten the hosts 3-1.
Unfortunately for Mr Ahmad, he appears to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time….and wearing the wrong shirt.
His friend, Amer Lokie, said that at the time of his arrest Ahmad was wearing a Qatar replica shirt and holding another. “After he left the stadium he was followed by a couple of people and they assaulted him,” Lokie confirmed.
“They took away his T-shirt and he went home. Afterwards he went back to police station to report the assault and they held him.
“He was just a person who loved sport so much. I don’t think he knew he could get into problems for wearing a T-shirt or supporting a particular team.”
The Brit isn’t the first to fall foul of bizarre laws abroad, and unfortunately those from the United Kingdom and beyond have a habit of breaking rules that they probably didn’t even know existed in the first place.
Here are some examples of football fans coming a-cropper in the most unusual of ways.
Keep It Clean
In some parts of the world, particularly the Middle East, profanity is best avoided on all communications channels.
Unfortunately, the former Leeds United managing director David Haigh didn’t get the memo.
He was accused of ‘cyber slander’, basically defaming someone on Twitter, in Dubai, and as part of another ongoing investigation he had to spend Christmas in jail.
Incredibly, the maximum sentence for cyber slander is three years in prison, plus a fine of more than £5,000.
So if you’re in Dubai and active on social media, it might just be best to rein it in a little bit.
Flipping the Bird & Rocking Out
Stick your middle finger up at somebody, or show them the classic ‘v-sign’, and you may be on the receiving end of a physical or verbal rebuke, but nothing more.
However, in some parts of the world the wrong hand gesture at the wrong time can lead to a whole heap of trouble.
In India, a man was arrested for ‘flipping the bird’ at a work colleague; and this wasn’t the Dark Ages, this was August 2018.
Meanwhile, the classic ‘devil horns’ hand gesture, which is generally meant to mean rock or something similar in the US, actually translates as ‘your wife is a whore’ in some South American countries as well as Spain and Italy.
It gets worse: in the UK, crossed fingers is a sort of ‘wish me luck’ type gesture. In Vietnam, however, it’s a visual representation of the female private parts.
And even the humble, friendly thumbs up can get you in trouble. In many countries it is considered offensive, and in the Middle East in particular it is taken to mean, erm, up yours matey, or something similar.
Maybe just keep your hands in your pocket when travelling abroad as a football fan….
Stay Off the Grass
In English football, pitch invasions have been going on for decades, and are now considered par for the course during or after games of some significance.
But overseas, trespassing on the field of play is still very much a no-no, and can result in a rather more serious punishment than a slap on the wrist from a steward.
There was quite the hubbub then when a young Florida student ran onto the pitch during a friendly between Real Madrid and Chelsea in Miami.
His target? He simply wanted a hug from Cristiano Ronaldo, who could be forgiven for feeling a bit worried when a 19-year-old teenager was bounding across the turf towards him.
He got the hug he wanted, but unfortunately young Ronald Gjoka was also gifted a two-day spell in prison and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.
Ronaldo himself wrote a letter to law-makers in the state pleading for leniency, but the charges were not dropped and Gjoka’s college applications were affected.
Going the Extra Mile
CR7 is not the only global footballing superstardom for whom starstruck fans are willing to go the extra mile, but caution is advised if you bump into a big name on your travels.
The Juventus’ man’s nemesis, Lionel Messi, is another icon who attracts devotion from supporters all over the world.
The Barcelona man was unwinding at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, relaxing on a yacht in the middle of the ocean in Ibiza (as you do).
But when you’re an international megastar, people will do everything they can to get to you….including swimming for miles through choppy sea waters.
The intrepid fan of the diminutive winger managed to swim for an eternity through the Balearic Sea to reach Messi, and when he got there he managed to capture the moment on camera.
The individual in question was arrested upon reaching the shore, but no further punishment – aside from being knackered – was dished out.
One obsessive fan who did fall foul of the law, however, was one obsessive youngster in Brazil who thought he’d some up with the kind of espionage plot that James Bond would be proud of.
He snuck into the Brazilian team hotel ahead of the Olympic Games and hid in the laundry room in the hope of meeting his hero, Neymar.
Unfortunately, unlike the adoring fans of Ronaldo and Messi mentioned above, this young chap wasn’t quite able to get as close to his hero as he would have liked.
Led out of the hotel in handcuffs, at least he has secured his own slice of 15 minutes of fame. He might even have bagged some clean clothes from the laundry, too.