Saudi Arabian and Iranian clubs to play home-and-away in ACL for first time since 2015

September 5 – Saudi Arabian and Iranian clubs, drawn together in the Champions League, will for the first time play matches on a home-and-away since 2015. Since 2016 clubs from the two nations drawn against each other in AFC competition were mandated to play ties at neutral venues.

The AFC confirmed they the new arrangement would begin with the 2023/24 Champions Leagues season that kicks off September 16. The AFC decision came in parallel with the football federations of both countries signing a memorandum of understanding signalling a new era of collaboration and partnership.

The three Iranian teams qualified for this season’s Asian Champions League have all been drawn against Saudi Arabian opposition in the group stages.

Iran’s Sepahan have been drawn in Group C with Al-Ittihad; last year’s beaten finalists, Al-Hilal from Saudi will face Nassaji Massandaran in Group D; while Group E will see the clash of two giants, Iran’s Persepolis and Al Nassr.

The AFC welcomed “the historic move as it reflects the commitment of both the SAFF and FFIRI towards fostering closer ties between their respective footballing communities, allowing clubs to host matches on their home turf and visiting the respective away stadiums, creating a more engaging and exciting experience for the fans and players alike.”

However, mindful of the disputes between the nations in the past and an often fragile geo-political environment in the region, the AFC said it “is fully committed to ensuring the safety and security of all stakeholders involved in these matches, while securing the necessary approvals of the relevant AFC committees.”

The new political engagement through football between the two nations looks to be more than just lip-service.
The groundbreaking agreement between the SAFF and FFIRI sees both governing bodies commit to working together to advance the promotion and growth of football in both countries.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) today finalized a new partnership agreement with the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI), signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance collaboration and engage in various football development activities. Moving forward, the respective football governing bodies are committed to working together to advance the promotion and growth of football in both countries.

Yasser Al Misehal (pictured right), President of SAFF said: “This MoU not only fosters ties between our federations but will also carve a path for our youth, women, and the entire football community to succeed and enjoy the many benefits and opportunities available through the beautiful game. Saudi Arabia and Iran are two footballing nations and two powerhouses on the Asian continent.”

The MoU will primarily focus on enhancing grassroots football, providing comprehensive training courses for coaches and referees, and supporting women’s football development at the local and regional levels, said a joint statement. Both parties will also exchange knowledge and best practices across playing facilities, talent development, youth football, academies, general management, marketing, and various other football-related areas.

Mehdi Taj (pictured left), president of FFIRI, said: “This is a truly historic day for two nations bound by an enduring love for football, a sport adored by millions with so much potential still to explore and realize. We are delighted to sign a MOU with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and look forward to working with our counterparts. We believe our cooperation will greatly benefit the football ecosystems of our countries and the wider region in the years ahead.”

The MoU signing follows a meeting between the two parties in Sydney, Australia on the sidelines of the FIFA Women’s World Cup final.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1721403385labto1721403385ofdlr1721403385owedi1721403385sni@n1721403385osloh1721403385cin.l1721403385uap1721403385

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