Iran appeals to CAS over Bahrain hub for World Cup qualifiers

(Reuters) - Iran's football federation has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport over the Asian Football Confederation's decision to stage Asian World Cup Group C qualifiers in a hub in Bahrain.

The AFC said last month the remaining matches in the second round qualifying group, which features the hosts as well as Iran, Iraq, Cambodia and Hong Kong, would be played in Bahrain in late May and early June.

Iran had been scheduled to play three of their last four group fixtures at home, including their return match against Bahrain, and protested to the AFC at being "deprived" of their right to host matches.

"After the announcement by the AFC Secretary General that the decision was irreversible, the Iran Football Federation appealed against the decision ... before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)," read a statement posted on the federation's website.

"The Football Federation of Iran has requested the Court of Arbitration for a speedy review of the case."

The AFC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iran has long had a fractious political relationship with Bahrain, tensions which were exacerbated when the island kingdom signed a peace treaty with Israel last year.

The Bahrain Football Association was fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($21,530.84) by FIFA for various offences including the booing of the Iranian anthem during a World Cup qualifier between the nations in Riffa in 2019, which the hosts won 1-0.

Iran striker Mehdi Taremi last month raised questions about the extreme heat in Bahrain in May and June and alleged that the AFC, which is led by Bahraini royal Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, was routinely biased against his country.

Iraq lead Group C with Bahrain in second, while Iran, who have qualified for the last two World Cups, are third, five points behind the leaders with a game in hand.

Only the group winners of each of the eight groups in the second round of Asian qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are guaranteed to advance to the next phase of the competition.

The matches are due to be played from May 31 until June 15 after the COVID-19 pandemic saw all of Asia's World Cup qualifiers postponed during 2020.

($1 = 0.9289 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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