AFC removes ban on Iran's hosting rivals in Asian games
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) canceled a ban on Iranian football clubs from hosting the upcoming AFC Champions League matches in the group stage.
The AFC had earlier announced that Iranian clubs participating in 2020 Asian games should host their rivals in a neutral venue, in a politically motivated decision. The measure sparked harsh criticism inside the country from fans and officials who believed the decision to be affected by political motivations.
In this regard, Iranian clubs had announced that they would not participate in the tournament in case they cannot host opponents in Iran.
Accordingly, heads of the Iranian clubs departed for Malaysia to hold talks with AFC officials, including AFC General Secretary Dato' Windsor John, on the issue.
The latest reports said that the AFC has guaranteed that the clubs can host matches inside Iran’s territory during the group stage. However, the teams should play away matches in the first three days before hosting rivals in the three remaining weeks. Also, the Preliminary Stage matches will be held in neutral venues as announced before.
Therefore, Esteghlal and Shahr Khodro clubs have to make a trip to the United Arab Emirates to take on Kuwait SC and Bahrain’s Riffa on January 25 respectively in the Preliminary Stage 2. Iranian clubs Persepolis and Sepahan have already secured their place in the group stage.
Iran national team has no problem hosting opponents
During the meeting with the Iranian representatives, the AFC highlighted that Iran National Football Team will have no problem hosting opponents in the 2022 World Cup qualifications.
Managing directors of four Iranian clubs present in the 2020 AFC Champions League had earlier this week departed Tehran for Kuala Lumpur to negotiate with senior AFC officials over a recent banning of Iranian teams by AFC from hosting matches in the country.
In an interview with some of the AFC officials, Persepolis Club Managing Director Mohammed Hassan Ansarifard suggested that representatives of the four Iranian clubs to travel to Malaysia to meet senior AFC officials in Kuala Lumpur to present their views and numerous supporters.
The proposal was welcomed by Iranian Sports and Youth Minister Massoud Soltanifar.