The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran has taken a new dimension for the worse following the Saudi execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr along with 46 others.
The Saudi football association has on Friday, January 8, officially announced that it would not participate in international matches in Iran, citing security concerns in Riyadh, pointing at the recent storming of their embassy in Tehran as a good example.
With the two countries already stuck in an array of conflicts, this incident made the situation worse for football fans in the Middle East.
It would be recalled, Saudi had severed all diplomatic and commercial relations with Iran.
The tit-for-tat war reached a new low today with Saudi Arabia vowing to boycott football activities as well.
Saudi football clubs Al-Ahil FC, Al-Hilal FC, Al-Ittiyad FC and Al-Nasr FC issued statements demanding that they be allowed to play Asian championship matches against Iranian clubs, scheduled for February, 2016.
The clubs were expected to ask the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to officially request the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to move the games away from Iran.
Iran, in quick retort to the execution of the cleric banned the import of goods from Saudi Arabia.
Asghar Bagherian, an Iranian football official, said FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation rules are clear that politics has no place in football.
He said the first match to be affected would be in the Asian Champions League in January and February, 2016.
Bagherian said Saudi’s decision was illogical and illegitimate, adding that his country was going to reject Saudi’s offer to hold the matches in other Gulf States.
The head of Iran’s Premier League, Mehndi Taj, threatened to file a complaint with the AFC on the grounds that Saudi was mixing sports with politics.
Citing from the rulebook he said, “Articles 3 and 4 of AFC assert that political issues should not be extended to football; this is not for the first time that Saudis take pretexts of this sort on their unethical pursuit. The best response is to play strong football on the field and to defeat Saudis on their own ground,” adding that the Iranian team was willing to play matches in the kingdom.