Gulf row hits AFC Champions League quarters

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 6, (AFP): Iran’s Persepolis and Saudi Arabia’s Al Ahli will no longer play their second leg Asian Champions League quarter-finals in Qatar, the football body said Tuesday, as a diplomatic crisis sweeps the region.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen were among those to cut ties with Qatar on the grounds that Doha supported extremist groups “that aim to destabilise the region”.

The rift has triggered the closure of air space and the expulsion of diplomats.

It also means a new venue will have to be found for the matches between the two teams, scheduled for August and September.

“Iran has chosen Oman as their neutral venue. Saudi has chosen Qatar for their home match but now with the new development, Saudi Arabia has to propose a new (neutral) venue,” the AFC’s secretary general Windsor John told reporters.

John said the new neutral venue could be identified over the next two weeks. Neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran play matches at home.

Persepolis spokesman Pendar Khomarlou told AFP the team was unaffected by the Gulf diplomatic bust-up, the biggest to hit the region in years.

“Saudi and Qatar have political problems. Saudi may choose Abu Dhabi.”

We have no problems with playing in Abu Dhabi since we have a lot of supporters living there,” he said.

He also said the four teams that could make it to the semis were Persepolis, Guangzhou Evergrande, Al Ain and Kawasaki Frontale.

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