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Spat Forces Saudi, Iranian Soccer Teams To Play In Neutral Venues

Saudi Arabian soccer clubs will play Asian Champions League matches against Iranian teams at neutral venues this year because of poor relations between the two countries.

The Asian Football Confederation announced that the two feuding nations had failed to meet a March 15 deadline it had established for restoring "normal relations" between the two nations' clubs.

Saudi Arabia cut all ties with Iran in January after its embassy in Tehran was attacked by crowds angry about Saudi's execution of a prominent Shi'ite cleric.

The dispute within weeks reached down to the nations' sports teams, with the Saudi government barring travel to Iran by Saudi citizens and players, citing safety concerns.

Those restrictions remain in place and relations have only deteriorated further in recent weeks, prompting the confederation to say games will have to be played in neutral countries.

It gave the two nations until March 25 to propose new venues.

The Saudi and Iranian clubs are scheduled to play games together in April and May.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters