Iranian Football Federation (IFF) President Ali Kaffashian has denounced what he described as Saudi efforts to portray the Islamic republic as too unsafe to host Asian championship matches, according to the government-controlled Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA).
"We have given a reply to claims of Arab countries and sent letters to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in which we introduced Iran as the safest country to host the matches. AFC officials have confirmed our remarks. Unfortunately, Arab countries try to attribute their insecurity to Iran," Kaffashian said.
Kaffashian was responding to a letter to the AFC sent by the Saudi Football Federation expressing concern about the security of four Saudi teams scheduled to play Asian championship matches in Iran in May.
Soccer tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia first erupted in early March when Saudi immigration authorities demanded that Tehran’s Persepolis FC soccer team, Asia’s most popular club, be fingerprinted and iris scanned upon its arrival at Jeddah airport for an Asian championship match against Al Ittihad. The Persepolis team refused what is standard procedure for all visitors to the kingdom, and was held at the airport for eight hours.