Four Persian Gulf Pro League clubs have threatened to withdraw from AFC Champions League 2020 after they were denied permission to host their home matches in IR Iran.
Al Jazeera said no reason had yet been given for the ban, but it came in the wake of huge tensions and security concerns in Iran and the Middle East following the assassination by the USA of Iranian military leader General Qassem Soleimani and the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet by Iranian forces.
"It looks like your competition committee's decision was influenced by foreign media hostile to Iran", Sports Minister Masoud Soltanifar told the head of the Asian Football Association, the ministry said. It appears yet more fallout to the accidental shoot down of the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on January 8, which tragically killed all 176 people on board.
Iran staggers under a USA maximum pressure campaign UU. after the president Donald Trump pulled his country from a milestone nuclear agreement in 2018 and again imposed sanctions on Tehran.
Football's governing body in Iran said the AFC wants ties hosted by its teams to be at neutral venues.
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"It is still a competition committee (AFC) recommendation that needs to be approved by the executive committee", the source says. "This is our absolute right and we insist on it".
"Iran is fully ready to host various teams as it has repeatedly proven during the past several years", Amirmahdi Alavi, a spokesman for the Iranian federation, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr news agency.
"It is the right of Iranian teams to benefit from the presence of their spectators", he said, according to the club's website.
The games between Saudi and Iranian teams were played in the United Arab Emirates.
The ban on the AFC has angered fans in Iran, where football is the most popular sport.