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Saudi Al-Ittihad refuse to take field against Iran's Sepahan, referee calls off match

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This photo, circulated through social media platforms, shows Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad football club players at the departure gate of Isfahan airport, on October 2, 2023, following their refusal to take the field against Iran’s Sepahan football club.

A football match between Iran's Sepahan and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad football teams, which was scheduled to take place in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, has been canceled after the Saudi squad refused to take the field over unspecified reasons.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League 2023/24 Group C match was slated to take place at the city’s Naghsh-e-Jahan Stadium on Monday. However, the game was called off by the referee when the Saudi squad refused to play.

Footage circulated across various media outlets and social media platforms showed Al-Ittihad players at the departure gate of Isfahan airport, ready to go back to their country.

Sepahan Sport Club then issued a statement, saying they have prepared an official complaint, which will be filed with the AFC.

They added that the pitch had been inspected time and again by the AFC, the Iranian Football Federation and other relevant authorities, and had received their approval.

The AFC also issued a statement on the development, saying the match was canceled due to "unanticipated and unforeseen circumstances."

"The AFC reiterates its commitment towards ensuring the safety and security of the players, match officials, spectators, and all stakeholders involved. This matter will now be referred to the relevant committees," it added.

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