A new row emerged on Monday night after Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad walked out of Naghsh-e-Jahan Stadium in Iran’s central city of Isfahan before an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League match with the Iranian side, Sepahan.
Al Ittihad officials refused to play, claiming that the banners and the busts of the IRGC’s Quds Force late commander General Qassem Soleimani near the pitch had political implications.
The Saudi side reported the issue to the referee and the AFC observers, but the Iranian team reportedly refused to remove the banners and busts.
Following the walk-out, Al Ittihad posted a statement on X social media platform, reading, “The Al Ittihad Club will follow up on the decision and asks the AFC to protect the club’s rights according to the rules and regulations.”
On the other hand, Iran’s Sepahan dismissed the politically-tainted accusation in a statement, saying, “The Naqsh-e Jahan Stadium has been visited many times by the observers of AFC, (the Iranian) Federation, League Organization and Professional Licensing Committee and has been approved by them in the same shape.”
The statement added, the Sepahan Club has prepared its arguments to file a complaint with the AFC and will soon take the necessary legal measures.