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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Arabian Gulf League: Iranian players may miss out due to name dispute

Sharjah's Javad Nekounam and 'eight or nine other players' have been prevented from joining UAE clubs because of the league's rebranding, writes Amith Passela.
Iran's Javad Nekounam may not play in the Arabian Gulf League.
Iran's Javad Nekounam may not play in the Arabian Gulf League.

On Sunday night, Sharjah said they do not want to be dragged into a controversy after it emerged that Iran has barred team captain Javad Nekounam from joining the Arabian Gulf League club because of a dispute over the UAE's rebranded football league.

"We don't want to be drawn into a political warfare and if it is true, the club management will take necessary action to avoid any confrontations," a team official said.

Nekounam, 32, arrived at Sharjah last week to negotiate a deal estimated at more than US$2 million (Dh 7.3m), but that move now has been halted by authorities, according to Ali Kafashian, the head of Iran's football federation.

"We had to stop him from joining the Emirati league," Kafashian was quoted by Fars news agency as saying, adding Nekounam would receive an unspecified amount in compensation which "we will ask the president [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] to allocate."

Kafashian also said "eight or nine other players" have been prevented from joining UAE clubs and would be compensated.

Kafashian did not explain why Nekounam's move has been blocked, but Iranian media claimed the step was taken to stop him from playing in the UAE's renamed "Arabian Gulf League", a rebranding which has caused tension in Iran, over the use of the term "Arabian Gulf" rather than "Persian Gulf".

Iran also has its own "Persian Gulf Cup" in football.

While Nekounam has been barred from joining the Arabian Gulf League, Mohammed Reza Khalatbari had already signed for Ajman before the name change of the league.

However, he may also be on his way back home, with Kafashian saying a legal settlement was being sought to end his contract with the club.

apassela@thenational.ae

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