1135 GMT June 23, 2021
Persian Gulf Pro League champion Persepolis went into a self-imposed quarantine on Saturday as the Iranian Reds are simulating the lockdown conditions in Qatar, where they will be playing the AFC Champions League (ACL) final on December 19.
All Persepolis players tested negative for COVID-19 on Saturday, which is a relief for the Reds, who can’t afford to miss any more players as they already have key figures Ehsan Pahlevan, Vahid Amiri, and Issa Al-e-Kassir suspended for the final showdown.
Persepolis, which beat the Saudi side Al Nassr in the October’s semifinal, will take on the East Zone finalist – yet to be decided as the last-16 round gets underway in Qatar on Sunday.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) decided to hold the remainder of the competition – of both East and West zones – in the Persian Gulf country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Iranian club will be placed into a biosecure bubble upon arrival in Doha.
Perspolis’s fixture in the domestic league against Nassaji Mazandaran, set to be played in Qaem Shahr on Sunday, was suspended by the Iranian federation on Friday.
Yahya Golmohammadi’s side, however, will still have to face Zob Ahan in Tehran next Saturday before flying to Qatar.
Meanwhile, the AFC has no intention of delaying the Dec. 19 final despite an Al Nassr’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the Arabic sport website Kooora reported on Saturday, quoting an AFC Appeal Committee member.
Al Nassr has already seen an appeal – regarding the Iranian club’s eligibility to play in the final – turned down by the AFC Appeal Committee after the Asian football governing body’s Disciplinary and Ethics Committee cleared Persepolis of any wrongdoing in October.
However, some sources on Thursday reported that the CAS has called on the AFC to delay the game as the court can hold an urgent hearing on the case.
But the AFC member told the website that the body has received no letter from the Swiss-based court regarding the match.
Following the last-four shootout defeat, the Saudi club lodged a protest to the AFC, claiming that seven Persepolis players had signed for the Reds despite the Iranian side’s transfer ban by FIFA due to the financial case of ex-manager Branko Ivankovic.
In a letter in early August, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee had given the Iranian club a Sept. 12 deadline to pay the delayed wages of the former Croatian head coach and his technical staff – who parted ways with Persepolis at the end of the 2018-19 season – or Persepolis would have indefinitely been banned from making any recruitments.
New players Pahlevan and Al-e-kasir, as well as Hamed Lak, Saied Aqaei, and Milad Sarlak all signed for the Reds on Sept. 5 with Ali Shojaei and Arman Ramezani putting pen to their contracts two days later, according to the club and Iran Football Federation.