Iranian clubs agree to play ACL in UAE as AFC keeps options open for home fixtures

January 24 – After threatening to pull all four of their participants out of the Asian Champions League, Iranian authorities have relented after The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed it is moving two preliminary matches out of Iran to neutral venues because of security concerns.

Shahr Khodro FC were scheduled to host Bahrain’s Riffa and Esteghlal FC were set to play Kuwait SC last Tuesday but both were postponed and rescheduled for the United Arab Emirates at the weekend.

Iran had already threatened to boycott the tournament altogether over the ban on staging home games, saying they would withdraw all four of their clubs which also include Persepolis and Sepahan. But Shahr Khodro FC and Esteghlal FC have now agreed to the move.

The AFC said in a statement an accord had been struck following discussions with club representatives in Kuala Lumpur.

As a compromise, the AFC said home group-stage matches on matchday one, two and three involving Iranian clubs would be switched to away fixtures “to allow time to reassess the security concerns in the country” and keeping open an opportunity for the Iranian clubs to play home matches.

The fixture changes were implemented in the wake of  Iranian forces accidentally shooting down a Ukraine airline on January 8, killing all 176 onboard amid tensions following the assassination by the United States of prominent Iranian general Qassem Suleimani.

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