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7/27/05

UK: Cancellation of Iran soccer match at Millwall blamed on racist elements

London, July 27, IRNA-Iran's second football match during its visit to the UK has been called off by London Championship club Millwall, citing fears for public safety even though the police were prepared to allow the game due this Saturday to go ahead.

"Unfortunately, it is clear that there are elements not associated with Millwall Football Club who are hell-bent on causing problems on Saturday," said a joint statement issued by Millwall and the Iranian Football Federation.

It said the cancellation was "regrettable" but suggested that there was the "possibility of endangerment to innocent people including members of our local community."

"Based on the intelligence we received from a number of sources, we reached the conclusion that we have a joint moral responsibility not to compromise the safety of fans wishing to attend the game," the statement said.

The south-east London club, which has one of the worst reputations in English football for problems caused by fans, indicated its intentions last week to postpone the match after stopping the sale of tickets.

In the current climate, it was feared that the match on July 30 would be targeted by right-wing extremists in a backlash against the recent bombings in London.

"The security services are already fully stretched at the moment and, whilst the police would have met the demands of policing this fixture, it is clearly irresponsible to add to their burden at this time," the joint statement said.

But IRNA has learnt that there was more concern about Millwall's first match in the new season, away to Leeds in northern England on August 7, which has led to a virtually ban on its fans traveling to the game.

The Iranian team has already played one fixture of their tour against Queens Park Rangers (QPR) in west London last Saturday, which passed off peacefully. A third game against Portsmouth on the south coast of England is also going ahead on August 6.

After the QPR game, coach Ian Holloway praised the Iranian team and said he found the game uplifting and showed that "sports wins." "Everyone in the stadium showed what the world is about. It is not about people who hide behind banners of religion or politics. I made friends here and would invite Iran back anytime," he said.

... Payvand News - 7/27/05 ... --



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