PROGRES.ID – The Asian Champions League match between Sepahan and Al Ittihad, scheduled for Monday (2/10/2023) at 11:00 PM WIB at Naghsh-e-Jahan Stadium, Isfahan, has been canceled. The reason for the cancellation is the presence of a statue of Qasem Soleimani, a controversial military figure from Iran, which is disliked by Saudi Arabia.
Approximately 60,000 spectators had filled the stadium’s stands to watch this match. However, Al Ittihad refused to play due to the presence of the Soleimani statue.
The half-body statue of Soleimani was placed beside the field, precisely between two reserve benches. Al Ittihad considered the statue’s presence as an inappropriate political element in a football match.
Al Ittihad left the stadium and refused to participate. The AFC (Asian Football Confederation) then announced the cancellation of the match.
“The 2023/24 AFC Champions League Group C match between Sepahan and Al Ittihad, scheduled for tonight at Naghsh-e-Jahan Stadium, Isfahan, has been canceled due to unforeseen circumstances,” read the AFC statement.
The AFC also emphasized its commitment to ensuring the safety and security of players, match officials, spectators, and all stakeholders involved. This issue will now be referred to the relevant committee.
“AFC reaffirms its commitment to ensuring the safety and security of players, match officials, spectators, and all stakeholders involved. This issue will now be referred to the relevant committee,” concluded the announcement.
The cancellation of this match is a surprising event. The Asian Champions League is one of the prestigious football competitions in Asia. This cancellation will undoubtedly have an impact on both teams involved.
Al Ittihad will lose points in the group standings. Meanwhile, Sepahan will miss the opportunity to secure a victory and earn full points.
This cancellation also highlights that politics still influences football. The Soleimani statue symbolizes the ongoing conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Its presence on the field would certainly have escalated tensions between the two teams.
The AFC needs to take steps to prevent similar incidents in the future. The AFC must ensure that all Asian Champions League matches take place in a safe and peaceful atmosphere, free from political elements that could disrupt the course of the matches.