Iran says it’s been banned from hosting international soccer

Sports

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s soccer federation said Friday it has been told it will not be hosting any international matches on Iranian soil.

The federation said it received a letter from the Asian Football Confederation saying that all matches involving Iranian teams will be held in a third country.

The Iranians did not say if any reason was given or if the decision is related to the accidental shoot down of a Ukrainian jetliner last week, which killed all 176 people on board.

The AFC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“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.

He pointed to Iran’s hosting of the 2018 AFC Champions League final at Azadi Stadium in the capital, Tehran, as an example. He also said the Sports Ministry has provided the required security guarantees to the AFC.

Iran’s federation, which has four teams in the AFC Champions League, said it would meet with AFC officials to express its opposition to the decision.

Last season the Iranian teams played Saudi teams in the United Arab Emirates. the Saudi teams did not travel to Iran because the two countries severed diplomatic relations in 2016.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard accidentally shot the Ukrainian flight down on Jan. 8 as it was expecting a counterattack after firing several missiles at U.S. troops in Iraq. The missile attack was retaliation for the killing of Iran’s top general in a U.S. airstrike.

Iranian officials initially blamed the crash on a technical problem and only admitted responsibility three days later, after Western leaders said there was mounting evidence the plane was brought down by a surface-to-air missile.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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