Saudi Pro League clubs will travel to Iran to feature in the Asian Champions League after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced that matches between teams from the two regional rivals would be played on a home-and-away basis for the first time in years.
The move means international football stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Karim Benzema will play in Iranian stadiums this season.
In a statement on September 4, the AFC praised “a groundbreaking agreement” between the Iranian and Saudi football federations, “allowing clubs to host matches on their home turf and visiting the respective away stadiums, creating a more engaging and exciting experience for the fans and players alike.”
Matches between Iranian and Saudi teams had been played in stadiums on neutral territory since 2016 because strained diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Long-standing tensions have ceased since the two countries reached a China-brokered deal in March to resume diplomatic relations.
Al-Nassr, Ronaldo’s team, is scheduled to play Persepolis in Tehran's Azadi Stadium on September 19. The return game on November 27 will be played in Riyadh.
Saudi champions Al-Ittihad, featuring ex-Real Madrid striker Benzema, are due to face Isfahan-based Sepahan in Iran on October 2.
Al-Hilal, who recently signed Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, are scheduled to travel to Tehran to take on Nassaji Mazandaran on October 3.
“Passionate fans across Saudi Arabia, Iran and the whole of Asia can now look forward to a thrilling new chapter in club and national team football,” the AFC said, adding the countries’ teams will “battle in the spirit of competition and camaraderie.”