On Friday, the Iranian Football Federation (IFF) received an official letter from the Asian Football confederation (AFC) in which it says that Iranian soccer teams will henceforth be banned from hosting Asian Soccer League Championship matches, adding that future matches will be played in "neutral countries," most likely the neighboring United Arab Emirates.
"The Islamic Republic Football Federation has received an official letter from the AFC that said it had decided to hold the future Asian Soccer League Championship hosted by Iran in 'neutral' countries," the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-run Tasnim news agency reported on Friday, January 17.
Amirmahdi Alavi, a spokesman for the IFF, rejected the ban, telling local news outlets that "Iran is fully ready to host various teams as it has repeatedly proven during the past several years."
He pointed to 2018’s ACL final held in Tehran and said, “The sports minister has given the AFC the needed security assurances regarding hosting” teams.
The IFF has not yet specified why it received the ban from the AFC, or whether the decision has any relation to the recent accidental downing of a Ukraine Airlines passenger plane by Iranian forces that killed all 176 passengers on board over the capital city, Tehran.
Managers of the four clubs representing Iran in the ACL tournament (Esteqlal, Perspolis, Sepahan, and Shahr Khodro) will be consulted on Saturday, according to the report, saying, “The final position of Iranian clubs and the federation will be announced in the following days.”
Last October, Iran allowed women to enter soccer stadiums for the first time in 40 years, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, following pressure from human rights groups and the sport's world governing body FIFA.