0607 GMT February 25, 2020
Iranian clubs will definitely refuse to play their home games at the 2020 AFC Champions League (ACL) in neutral venues, said Heidar Baharvand, the caretaker boss of the Iran Football Federation.
On Friday, Iranian federation said it has received a letter from the Asian football governing body, AFC, which read that the executive committee of the competition has decided to strip the Iranian sides of hosting their fixtures.
“Hosting matches at the Asian Champions League is Iranian football’s inalienable right,” said the Iranian sport official, insisting that the country will “accept all consequences of the decision [not to play in a neutral ground].”
Iran has four teams – Persepolis, Esteghlal, Sepahan and Shahr Khodro – in this year’s competition.
Esteghlal was scheduled to take on Kuwait SC in a preliminary fixture at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on January 21, with Shahr Khodro also set to host Bahraini side Al Riffa on the same day.
Meanwhile, Seyyed Reza Salehi Amiri, the president of Iran’s Olympic Committee, blamed AFC’s decision, saying that Iran is “one of the safest countries in the region.”
The representatives of four Iranian clubs and sport officials had a meeting in the Sports Ministry headquarters on Saturday regarding the issue.
Before the meeting, Persepolis chief executive Mohammad-Hassan Ansarifard told the Mehr News Agency the club will "certainly not participate" in the new Champions League season "if they insist on their decision."
Meanwhile, Iranian football fans took to AFC’s Instagram page on Friday night and Saturday to share their annoyance of the Asian body’s decision, in posts bearing #ACLneediranfans.