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Saudi-Iran soccer match canceled over Qasem Soleimani statue row

Iran and Saudi Arabia resumed diplomatic relations in March. Soleimani, who was killed in a US airstrike in 2020, is a polarizing figure in the region.
Al-Ittihad's supporters wave a flag.

A Saudi soccer team refused to play an Iranian squad on Monday, reportedly due to a statue on the sidelines depicting slain Iranian commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani, an indication of the continued complexities of Iran-Saudi relations.

What happened: The Saudi soccer team Al-Ittihad was in the Iranian city of Isfahan for a match against the Iranian club Sepahan at Naghsh-e Jahan Stadium. The game was part of the annual Asian Football Confederation’s Champions League. The second round of the league's group stage began on Monday.

However, the confederation released a statement on Monday evening local time saying the match “has been canceled due to unanticipated and unforeseen circumstances.”

Saudi media outlets including Al-Arabiya and Arab News reported that Al-Ittihad left the stadium due to the presence of a statue depicting Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Soleimani.

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