Iran FM: Sepahan, Al Itihhad to play rematch, sport events not political leverage

Following a spat between Saudi Arabia’s Al Itihhad football team and the Iranian rivals Sepahan over off-the-field controversies, Iran’s foreign minister says sports should not be used as a political leverage.

Addressing reporters after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Hossein Amirabdollahian made the remarks in reaction to the decision by Al Itihhad to walk out of an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League match in the Iranian city of Isfahan’s Naqsh-e Jahan stadium on Monday.

The Saudi team claimed that the banners and the busts of the IRGC’s Quds Force late commander General Qassem Soleimani near the field had political implications, an accusation the Iranian side denied.

Amirabdollahian said he was in touch with his Saudi counterpart during the Monday standoff, adding Saudi Arabia and Iran have made an agreement that the teams will play a rematch.

The development comes as Riyadh and Tehran have recently resumed their bilateral ties after seven years of severed ties over differences in their regional policies.

Amirabdollahian also dismissed speculations that the wrangle between the football teams would tarnish the ties between the two countries, seeking to assure that “the relations between Riyadh and Tehran are moving in the right direction.”

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