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Iran’s Soccer Team May Face Sanctions Ahead Of Asian Cup

By Orkhan Jalilov November 16, 2018

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On November 10, Iran allowed over 1,000 local female fans to attend the 2018 Asian Champions League final at the Azadi Stadium, in Tehran, and to watch Iran's Persepolis seek to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit against Japan’s Kashima Antlers, and claim their first continental crown. Iranian women have not been allowed to attend any men’s sporting events in the country for much of the 39 years since the Islamic revolution, and have not been granted access to matches involving top clubs since 1981. / Tasnim News Agency

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has warned Iran could face sanctions over government interference with the country's football (soccer) association and as a result miss the AFC Asian Cup, which will take place in January.

“The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is closely monitoring the current issues faced by the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) with regard to the announcement of a Law by the Republic Parliament designating the FFIRI as a non-government public body and prohibiting the engagement of retired personnel,” read a statement by AFC issued on Tuesday, cited by Fox Sports Asia.

“The FFIRI stresses that it is a non-governmental organization and the AFC state that all Member Associations must fulfil their duties without any third party interference either from the Government or the Parliament.”

The AFC says it hopes Iran’s soccer body, “can maintain its independence and avoid any sanctions” less than two months before the Asian Cup starts in Abu Dhabi.

The statement came after the Iranian parliament passed a law barring the employment of retirees in government, state or public institutions that use state funds or facilities. The law applied to the current president of the Iranian Football Federation Mehdi Taj and a number of other board members.

Soccer's world governing body FIFA suspended Iran in November 2006 from participation in international football on the grounds of governmental interference in the national football association. The ban was lifted after less than a month.

In another case, Iran’s Sport Minister Masud Soltanifar said in an interview on a state television on November 13 that the country is prepared to help Qatar host the soccer World Cup in 2022, and is offering to provide extra training space or even put whole islands in the Gulf at its disposal.

According to Iranian media, Qatari officials said they are considering Iran's offer. If accepted, it would provide a major boost for Iran's economy at a time when the United States is trying to isolate Tehran and squeeze it via harsh sanctions.

Meanwhile, the secretary of the Superior Committee on Projects and Legacy of the World Cup 2022, Hassan al-Thawadi, denied a report about Qatar’s consideration regarding Iran's offer to host some World Cup teams on its territory.

“The decision about the venue of the games in these competitions will be taken by FIFA and Qatar does not play a role in this regard” he said, according to Tasnim.

Iran was ranked number 30 in the October monthly world rankings by FIFA Coca Cola, making it the top team on the Asian continent. It is scheduled to play its opening game on January 7 against Yemen. Its group also includes Iraq and Vietnam.