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Charlton Athletic to respond to any FIFA probe about cancelled Iran game

London, July 30, IRNA - London football team Charlton Athletic has again denied boycotting a match against Iran's national side for political reasons, but said it will respond to any probe initiated by FIFA.

A friendly game between Iran and the second tier English Championship side was agreed while both teams were in training in Spain earlier this month, but the match was suddenly called off.

Charlton spokesman Matt Wright confirmed that the London team was "in Spain for eight days at the same time as Iran were out there.

Rochdale from northern England and Gibraltar was also in the region at the same time.

"The idea was that we were going to do some training and then try to play some games against the other sides who were in the area," Wright explained.

"Unfortunately due to a variety of circumstances, it just wasn't logistically possible to tie up games with either Rochdale or Iran.

We did in the end play the Gibraltar," he said.

In an interview with IRNA, the spokesman dismissed claims that the friendly was cancelled due to political interference by the British government.

He also denied reports that Charlton sent Iran a fax saying they were not playing, saying that he was unsure where the claim came from and that nothing had been sent "not to my knowledge."

"The reason this friendly didn't happen - rather than being cancelled because it was never arranged - the reason why this didn't happen was simply logistics," Wright reiterated.

He said that he was unable to confirm whether FIFA had received a letter about the cancellation from Iran, saying he was "not at liberty to comment on this."

But the spokesman added that if the world football body did get in touch about the game, Charlton would explain the situation to them as he had described to IRNA.

He insisted that there was "nothing sinister" about the cancellation and referred to Charlton being the first English team to have an Iranian international, Karim Bagheri, on its books back in 2000.

"If we had anything against Iran, we wouldn't have hired an Iranian player and wouldn't have entered into discussion with this country," Wright said.

Former British Ambassador to Tehran, Sir Richard Dalton also rejected claims that there could have been any political intervention that led to the match being called off.

"Under our constitution, the government is not able to order sports federations to do this or to do that," Dalton said.

He also was against any form of boycott and said it was "up to individual organisations, not the state or outsiders to take these decisions".

"Personally, I welcome all sporting exchanges and I hope there would be more of them in the future," the former envoy said in an interview with IRNA.

"I would encourage any football club or any other sporting organisation to get in touch with its Iranian counterpart and enjoy themselves and compete openly," he said.

... Payvand News - 07/30/08 ... --

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