Saudi Arabia clubs to play AFC matches hosted by Iran

Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr will face Iranian club Persepolis on September 19 in Tehran in the opening round of the AFC Champions League group stage.

RIYADH — In a significant development, Saudi football clubs will once again compete in Asian Football Confederation (AFC) matches hosted in Iran, marking a return to the traditional home-and-away fixture system. This decision comes after an agreement was reached between the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and the Iranian Football Federation, signifying a renewed spirit of cooperation and goodwill between the two nations in the realm of football.

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The move brings an end to the practice of playing matches on neutral ground, a system introduced in 2016 and maintained until the previous edition of the AFC Champions League.

The decision to return to the home-and-away format signals a fresh chapter in the longstanding football rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a rivalry that has captured the imagination of fans across the region.

The AFC welcomed this historic move, which reflects the commitment of the Saudi and Iranian Football Federations to strengthen relations within the football community in both countries. This new arrangement allows clubs to host matches at their own stadiums and visit the opposing team’s venue for away fixtures, enhancing interaction and the overall experience for both fans and players.

Enthusiastic fans across Saudi Arabia, Iran, and throughout the continent are looking forward to a new chapter in the club and national team competitions. The Saudi and Iranian teams will compete in a spirit of camaraderie and gamesmanship under this arrangement.

With the implementation of home-and-away matches between clubs affiliated with the Saudi Arabian and Iranian Football Federations starting from September 19, the AFC reaffirmed its commitment to providing the highest standards of security and safety for all stakeholders in these matches, including the necessary approvals from relevant authorities.

Following the deal, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr will be the first club to play a match in Iran when they face Persepolis on September 19 in the opening round of the AFC Champions League group stage. This will be followed by the Jeddah-based Al-Ittihad facing Sepahan in Iran on the second day of the following month. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal will take on Naft Masjed Soleyman in the second round of the AFC Champions League group stage on the same day.

Iranian television broadcasts of Saudi Professional League football matches over the past weekend signify the growing global and regional interest in Saudi Arabian football. Additionally, fans across the continent have shown their passion for Saudi clubs and the increasing number of international stars gracing the Kingdom’s stadiums.

Saudi clubs such as Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad, Al-Nassr, Al-Shabab, Al-Ahli, and Al-Ettifaq have played numerous matches in Iranian cities since the 1990s before transitioning to neutral venues approximately seven years ago.

Source: Saudi Gazette