The Disciplinary Committee of the Asian Football Confederation ruled on Wednesday that the Saudi al-Ittihad soccer club had beaten the Iranian Sepahan soccer club 3-0 in a match that was canceled in early October after al-Ittihad withdrew because of a bust of former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani that was on display next to the field.

The Sepahan club will also be required to pay a fine of $200,000 due to the incident and has been banned from playing three matches at the Naghsh-e-Jahan Stadium where it took place, according to Iranian media.

The Saudi al-Ekhbariya TV channel reported at the time that Iranian officials were asked to remove the statue and banners, but they refused to do so, leading to the Saudi team withdrawing from the match.

Footage shared on social media at the time showed fans of the Iranian team chanting “we don’t want politics in soccer.”

Iran outraged at Saudi withdrawal from match

The IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported that the bust of Soleimani is part of the structure of the Naghsh-e-Jahan Stadium in Isfahan and has been in the stadium since shortly after Soleimani’s assassination.

Soleimani was assassinated alongside Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a US drone strike next to the Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.

The Iranian Fars News Agency noted that the Saudi team trained in the stadium the day before the match without complaint. An article on Fars’ website questioned whether the decision to withdraw from the match was an attempt by Saudi Arabia to draw closer to Israel.

The Sepahan club stated at the time that it would submit a complaint to the AFC concerning the withdrawal, according to the Iranian IRNA new agency.

The al-Ittihad team left Iran shortly after leaving the stadium, arriving in Jeddah later in the night. Representatives from the Saudi Embassy in Iran accompanied the athletes to the airport.

Saudi Arabia and Iran had only recently resumed diplomatic relations when the incident happened, with the Saudi ambassador to Iran having arrived in the country in early September.

Source » jpost