AFC welcomes ‘groundbreaking’ pact between Saudi, Iranian FAs

Featured image credit: Tabarez/CC BY 3.0/Edited for size

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has announced that all matches between national teams and clubs from Saudi Arabia and Iran will take place on a home-and-away basis for the first time since 2016.

The development follows an agreement between the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) and Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI). The AFC described the agreement as “groundbreaking”.

Prior to the agreement, all matches between the SAFF and FFIRI at national team and club levels were mandated to be played at neutral venues in accordance with the 2016 decision of the AFC Competitions Committee and AFC Executive Committee. The decision was taken amid strained diplomatic relations between the two countries, with restrictions on Saudi Arabian nationals travelling to Iran.

The AFC has welcomed the “historic” move, which it feels reflects the commitment of the SAFF and FFIRI to foster closer ties between their respective footballing communities. The AFC hopes the home-and-away fixtures will create a more engaging and exciting experience for fans and players inside stadiums.

The announcement has been made ahead of the start of the AFC Champions League season later this month, and paves the way for Saudi Pro League clubs to travel to Iran for group-stage fixtures.

As a result, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr will travel to the Iranian capital of Tehran to face Persepolis on September 19. The match will be played at Azadi Stadium (pictured). 

Fellow Saudi teams Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad will also face away matches in Iran during the group stage. Al-Hilal’s squad features Neymar, while Al-Ittihad has recently signed Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante.