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Iran, Britain at odds… over football match

SoccerNews in English Premier League 15 Jul 2008

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Iran and its traditional foe Britain have found themselves at odds again over the cancellation of a football match between the Iranian national team and English outfit Charlton Athletic.

The saga contains the customary mix of accusations and counter-accusations, as well as a reference to Iran's missile tests last week thrown in for good measure.

Iran's football federation has complained furiously that Charlton went back on a formal agreement to play its national side, one of Asia's top teams, while on a training camp in Spain.

“We will make our complaint against Charlton to FIFA and sue for the damages,” the student ISNA news agency quoted football federation spokesman Mehdi Taj as saying.

“We believe that any political interference in sports is prohibited,” he added.

According to the reformist Etemad newspaper, the League Championship side gave as its reason Iran's test-firing of several missiles last week, which heightened tensions in the nuclear standoff with the West.

“It can be deduced that the cancellation was at the order of the British government,” the paper seethed.

But a spokesman for Charlton Athletic told AFP that the reason for the cancellation of the game was “logistical” and any idea of government pressure was simply “rubbish”.

“There was a discussion about having a game and those discussions have now ended. No contracts have been cancelled or anything along those lines,” the spokesman said.

“The other suggestion is that the British government told us to cancel. That is absolute rubbish. We haven't cancelled.”

Iran's national side – coached by the world record holder for international goals Ali Daei – have been looking for top-quality opposition for friendlies to prepare for the final stage of Asian qualification for the 2010 World Cup.

Asked whether a match against Iran was still a possibility, the Charlton spokesman said: “I think it's unlikely.”

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