Banning all things Qatar: UAE censors FC Barcelona sponsor logo

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A photo posted to social media from the UAE on Thursday appears to show the former sponsor of Barcelona football club – Qatar Airways – covered up with white paint, effectively banning the word “Qatar” from public view.

Social media users claim the photo was taken at an unspecified mall in the UAE, and shows Barcelona players Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez on an advertisement billboard with the club’s former sponsor censored.

In 2011, Barcelona made history when they signed a deal with Qatar Sports Investment, agreeing to put a paid sponsor’s logo on their shirts for the first time in 111 years.

Last year, however, the club announced a new sponsorship deal with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten, and the team will wear their logo for the 2017-2018 season instead of Qatar Airways.

Read more: Even the beautiful game gets drawn into Saudi-Qatar spat

The photo of the censored shirt logo sparked speculation online, with some questioning if wearing the former Barcelona shirt in public could result in getting trouble with the law.

The UAE announced this week that anyone making social media posts symathetic to Qatar could result in between three and 15 years in jail.

On Thursday, the UAE closed its airspace to all flights coming to and from Doha, escalating the diplomatic crisis between Gulf states.

The move came after Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, along with other Arab and Muslim-majority countries, cut off diplomatic ties and transport links to Qatar on Monday.

FC Barcelona enjoys huge support in the Middle East, leading some to question whether the football team’s current kit could be dragged into the diplomatic spat.

The veracity of the photo has not been confirmed, but it does appear to be genuine. Whether or not it is, the fact that it has spread so far online shows the depth of feeling over the latest diplomatic crisis to hit the Gulf.

 

 

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