The Iranian Soccer Federation has suspended ties with its Greece counterpart, after a friendly game between the two nations, to be played in Istanbul, was canceled. The tensions are rising between Greece and Turkey, which resulted in the match being canceled. The IRNA news agency in Iran carried a statement late Thursday by the Iranian federation that argued the cancellation negatively impacted the Iranian team’s preparation for the 2018 World Cup, which is to be held in Russia.
“Until further FIFA action following this report, the Iranian Football Association…will suspend its relations with the Greek Football Federation,” said the Iranian federation. It also showed appreciation for the support, professionalism, and commitment of the Turkish federation in light of the cancellations.
This is not the first time that an Iranian federation of a sport has refused to play or cut ties with another federation or agency. The regime has very strict rules about how the Iranian players are to behave before, during, and after a sporting event. As a result, these strict rules have negatively impacted the careers of several Iranian players over the years.
The Iranian federation is also instituting legal action through the FIFA, in order to force the Greece federation to repay the Iranian players and sport over the cancellation. The game was scheduled for this past Saturday in Istanbul. The IRNA also noted that after Greece pulled out, the Kosovo team was to take its place by that substitute match was also cancelled.
These friendly games are supposed to provide the teams with additional preparation as the World Cup draws closer. Iran played a warm-up match with Turkey in Istanbul last week.
Greek organizers had reportedly sought an alternative venue to Istanbul for the friendly due to an ongoing high-profile dispute between Greece and neighboring Turkey over the arrest of two Greek soldiers on a border patrol. The soldiers, which were detained in Turkey, have been under arrest for three months, but they have not been formally charged by the Turkish government.
Greek and Iranian officials were not able to reach an agreement about the terms of a venue change, but despite Athens and the northeast Greek city of Xanthi being offered as alternatives, they did not move forward with the game.
Greece has also failed to qualify for the finals that are being held in Russia, despite having played in two previous World Cups. There was no reaction from the Greece federation, which is also facing the threat of international suspension over match-related violence and delays in administrative reforms demanded by FIFA.