MANILA (Reuters) – AFC player of the year nominee Nasser Al Shamrani has been banned for eight matches for spitting and head butting an opponent after the final of the AFC Champions League earlier this month, Arabic media reported on Sunday.
The Saudi striker’s ban, the least he could have received after being found guilty, is only for matches in the AFC Champions League, meaning he will be free to represent his country at the Asian Cup in January and his club Al Hilal in domestic competition, the report said.
Yemen’s Hamid Al Shaibani, deputy chairman of the Asian Football Confederation’s disciplinary committee, revealed the ban to the waslnews media portal after a meeting in Manila.
The AFC said the Saudi Arabian Football Association had not been informed of the decision, refusing to confirm or deny the report which comes hours before the 60th anniversary gala dinner in the Filipino capital.
AFC statutes say six matches is the minimum punishment for a player found guilty of spitting at an opponent, with two matches the least a player can expect for assaulting.
Al Shamrani spat in the direction of Western Sydney Wanderers defender Matthew Spiranovic after his side lost 1-0 on aggregate to the Australians following a goalless draw in Riyadh.
The 31-year-old diminutive forward, second leading scorer in the Champions League with 10 goals last term, was restrained by team mates after jumping to his feet from the floor and storming towards the substitute.
The fiery forward told reporters in Manila on Saturday that it was a normal reaction to spit after claiming to be verbally abused by the Australian.
Al Shamrani will find out later on Sunday if he has won the AFC’s Player of the Year award. He is up against United Arab Emirates defender Ismail Ahmed and Qatari playmaker Khalfan Ibrahim.