Football is in a period of diplomatic tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia

letter from beirut

In one of the stands at Al-Ittihad Stadium in Jeddah on June 8, 2023.

Will Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr. and Karim Benzema step onto the pitch of Tehran and Isfahan stadiums in the autumn? While this was still unimaginable just a few months ago, the idea is no longer entirely incongruous to Iranian football fans, who are unaccustomed to seeing parades of football stars in their country, placed under international sanctions and barred from Western countries. Has been accused of practicing hostage diplomacy. The incident is one of the most unexpected aspects of the détente agreement signed between Saudi Arabia and Iran in March 2023, combined with an unprecedented takeover bid from Saudi Pro League clubs at the summer transfer window for international players this season.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced that on 4 September, Riyadh and Tehran reached an agreement to resume home and away matches between their clubs and their national teams. “Fans in Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and across Asia can now look forward to an exciting new chapter in club and national team football as the teams (Saudi Football Federation) And (From Islamic Football Federation of Iran) Will compete in the spirit of competition and harmony.AFC said in a press release.

attract international football stars

During seven years of open conflict between the two countries, following the breakdown of their diplomatic ties in 2016, clubs from both federations clashed on neutral grounds – Dubai or Doha – due to a ban on Saudi citizens traveling to Iran. This ban has now been lifted, allowing Asian Champions League matches between clubs from the two countries to be played at home again for the first time since 2015. And, the Saudi Kingdom’s unbridled ambitions to establish itself as a new power in world football have resulted in it attracting approximately fifteen international football stars, with the possibility of being the hosting country for the 2034 World Cup. The season involved a massive expenditure of over a billion petrodollars.

Riyadh’s Al-Hilal Club, four-time champions of the competition, are scheduled to play their first Asian Champions League match on September 19 against finalists Persepolis Club of Tehran before the arrival of their star striker Cristiano Ronaldo in January 2023. 2018 edition. The other club from the Saudi capital, Al-Hilal, which signed Brazilian Neymar Jr. this summer, will face Nassaji Mazandaran club in Tehran on October 3. Jeddah club Al-Ittihad, already two-time champions of the Asian League, is expected to face the Sepahan club with their star striker Karim Benzema in Isfahan on October 2. In other countries participating in the competition, such as Iraq or Tajikistan, the arrival of these stars is also eagerly awaited.

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