The Iranian Football Federation has cancelled the national team’s planned flight to Beirut as its preferred airline could not get clearance from the Lebanese authorities and no other planes are available. Team Melli is due to play Lebanon in the World Cup Qualifiers on November 11 and according to the rules, must arrive no later than three days before the match.
Federation spokesman Hossein Sharifi told Iranian media that the Tehran-based Zagros Airlines, the team’s official partner, did not have the right permits to fly to Lebanon. The Federation scouted for other options, he said, but without success: “Although we spoke with two airlines, our choices were severely limited and no licenses were issued for those two airlines either."
Several Iranian airlines including Mahan Air and Iran Air have been subject to international sanctions in recent years. In response to a reporter’s question about why the flights had been cancelled, Sharifi said: “It may be because of the Lebanese political situation, but I cannot confirm or deny anything. I do not know the exact reason why the license was not issued, and our friends in the Civil Aviation Organization should not talk about it.”
In an apparent aside to the Lebanese authorities, he added: “Those who can help must do so today. There is still enough time for souvenir photos with the national team, with everybody present.”
The match is scheduled to take place next Thursday at 3.30pm Tehran time.