Iran's Football (soccer) Federation has confirmed receiving an official letter from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) banning the country from hosting international soccer matches.
"The Islamic Republic Football Federation (IFF) has received an official letter from the AFC that said it had decided to hold the future Asian Soccer League Championship hosted by Iran in 'neutral' countries," the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-run Tasnim news agency reported on Friday, January 17.
Iranian sports sector, specifically soccer clubs, are mainly managed and supervised by the commanders of the IRGC.
Based on the Tasnim report, all IFF authorities related to the case immediately held a session to decide upon a proper response to the AFC "unwarranted" ban.
Rejecting the ban, the IFF has insisted that Iran is fit to host international soccer matches.
"Iran is fully ready to host various teams as it has repeatedly proven during the past several years," Amirmahdi Alavi, a spokesman for the IFF, told local news outlets.
However, Iranian soccer federation has not specified why it was handed down the ban from the AFC, or whether the decision was linked to the recent downing of a Ukraine Airlines passenger plane that killed all 176 onboard over the capital city, Tehran.
The Islamic Republic authorities initially blamed the crash on a technical failure, but admitted responsibility three days later, after Canadian, and U.S. officials said there was evidence the plane was brought down by an IRGC missile.
Iran's federation, which has four teams (Esteqlal, Perspolis, Sepahan, and Shahr Khodro) in the Asian Champions League, said it would meet with AFC officials to express its opposition to the decision.
The Iranian clubs' official response to the ban would be announced soon on the IFF website, Tasnim reported.
Last season the Iranian sides played Saudi teams in the United Arab Emirates; the Saudi teams did not travel to Iran because the two countries severed diplomatic relations in 2016.