AFC holds firm in face of Iran Champions League boycott

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) Despite threats of an Iranian boycott of its flagship club competition, the Asian Football Confederation has confirmed that Champions League matches involving Shahr Khodro and Esteghlal have been moved to neutral venues because of security concerns.

The AFC released a statement Wednesday saying it had moved two qualification ties involving Iranian clubs - Shahr Khodro FC vs. Bahrain's Riffa and Esteghlal vs. Kuwait SC - to neutral venues "because of ongoing security concerns and the decision of several Governments to issue travel warnings to the Islamic Republic of Iran."

The rescheduled matches will be played Saturday in the United Arab Emirates.

The AFC's decision to move the matches comes days after the Iranian Football Federation threatened to boycott the 2020 Asian Champions League if they are barred from hosting international matches.

The IFF's president Heidar Baharvand told state television that if the ban was not reversed, Iran would withdraw its four teams - Persepolis, Esteghlal, Sepahan and Shahr Khodr - from the tournament.

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Updated January 22, 2020