« Brazilian football star Neymar led Saudi side Al-Hilal’s last training at the Azadi Sports Complex in Tehran ahead of the Asian Champions League clash against Iranian club Sepahan on Monday.
Footage shows players, including Brazil’s Neymar and Malcom, running around the field and playing rondo before the start of the tactical training session.
A few hours later, the match between Al-Hilal and Sepahan was called off after the Saudi players refused to participate in the presence of a statue of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani which had been placed near the pitch at the Naghsh-e Jahan Stadium in the city of Isfahan.
Soleimani, who was killed by a US airstrike in 2020, led a division of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps known as the Quds Force. The General played a central role in Iran’s international policy throughout the Middle East.
Despite years of regional tensions, Saudi Arabia and Iran have made tentative steps at normalisation in recent months.
Last month, Riyadh and Tehran brokered a deal allowing both sides to compete in home and away games after playing in neutral venues for more than half a decade. »