February 24, 2024

The soccer match was cancelled and the Saudi group left Iran after a statue of IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani was dropped at the pitch.

An official with Saudi facet Al Ittihad mentioned a dispute arose after membership directors objected to a bust of Soleimani [Getty]

A soccer match between Saudi and Iranian groups was cancelled on Monday night time amid a dust-up over a statue of slain Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, a membership supply informed AFP.

The match between Sepahan FC and Al Ittihad FC set to happen within the Iranian metropolis of Isfahan “has been cancelled attributable to unanticipated and unexpected circumstances”, the AFC Champions League mentioned in an announcement, with out elaborating.

Nevertheless an official with Saudi facet Al Ittihad mentioned a dispute arose after membership directors objected to a bust of Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone strike in 2020.

“The membership directors discovered a bust of Qassem Soleimani within the walkway to the pitch. It is a pure soccer sport and (the bust’s) presence is completely irrelevant,” the official mentioned.

“We requested them to take away it earlier than going to the pre-game warm-up and so they did not take away it. The group went again to the lockers.”

The official mentioned the 2 sides then met with AFC representatives to find out if the match can be rescheduled.

Soleimani commanded the international operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and stays a revered determine in Iran following his 2020 assassination.

The Iranian information company ISNA reported that Monday’s match had been cancelled “by the choice of the referee”, with out giving a cause.

Mohammed Reza Saket, basic supervisor of Sepahan, informed Iranian state tv that his facet would “instantly complain to the AFC” in regards to the incident.

“The request of the Ittihad group was exterior of sports activities customs and towards the same old rules,” he mentioned.

The stadium in Isfahan “has hosted dozens of worldwide video games with the identical look,” he added.

“The Ittihad group had educated yesterday with the identical situations and the prevailing design of the stadium and so they additionally thanked the Sepahan group.”

The native information company Tasnim mentioned the statue of Soleimani was “a part of” the stadium and had no connection to the match.

“Provided that state of affairs, what occurred tonight with the Saudi group leaving the sector was simply (them) making excuses,” it mentioned.

The Saudi state-affiliated Al-Ekhbariya channel reported on Monday night time that Ittihad had left Iran for Saudi Arabia.

The dispute comes one month after Saudi Arabia and Iran introduced a “groundbreaking” deal to renew home-and-away soccer matches between membership sides after seven years of competing in impartial venues.

That settlement was the newest signal of rapprochement stemming from a shock China-brokered deal introduced in March that noticed the long-time rivals agree to revive diplomatic relations and reopen their respective embassies following a seven-year rupture.

The official information company IRNA shared footage on Monday of the newly appointed Saudi ambassador arriving on the stadium in Isfahan forward of the match.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Saudi membership Al Nassr performed a match in Tehran on September 19, the primary time a Saudi membership had performed in Iran since 2016.

The Portugese star obtained a rapturous welcome, with giant crowds lining the streets and shouting, “Ronaldo! Ronaldo!”

Neymar’s Saudi membership Al Hilal was scheduled to play on Tuesday towards Iranian facet Nassaji Mazandaran.

There was no quick phrase on Monday as as to whether the match would go forward.

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