The Football Federation of Iran (FFIRI) has agreed to host home World Cup qualifiers for three conflict-stricken nations, BBC‘s Persian branch reported on Thursday morning.
The offer could see Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan each play four home fixtures on Iranian soil for a total of 16 qualifiers played in the Central Asian giants over the next year.
While the three countries were widely expected to play their home games on neutral ground, the gesture of assistance will surely raise the regional profile of Iran, who lead AFC members with their 40th-place FIFA World Ranking.
“This initiative demonstrates Iran’s international credibility,” FFIRI president Ali Kafishian told reporters. “We will strive to provide the best available facilities.”
Details of the agreement are likely to be worked out during Thursday’s AFC Ordinary Congress in Bahrain, with the biggest winners likely to be Afghanistan who face a challenging Group E with Syria, Singapore, Cambodia, and Japan.
Iran is host to the largest Afghan diaspora in the world, with as many as three million Afghanis living in the country as a result of nearly four decades of war in the region.
According to Kafishian, Afghanistan have requested Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, capable of holding up to 100,000 spectators, for their match against the Samurai Blue on September 8.
A recent AFC U-23 Championship qualifier between Afghanistan and Iran drew 80,000 Afghan fans to Azadi Stadium, while the AFC Champions League match between Persepolis and Al Nassr earlier this month set a competition record with 100,000 in attendance.