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Azadi Stadium to host AFC-OFC Challenge Cup

KUALA LUMPUR, 12 September 2003: The AFC-OFC Challenge Cup 2003 between Iran and New Zealand has been confirmed for Sunday, 12th October 2003 at the magnificent 100,000 plus capacity Azadi Stadium in Tehran, kick-off at 1535hrs, local time.

The match was to have been played on a home and away basis back in March and April, but was postponed due to the conflict in the Middle East earlier this year. Next month’s game will be played on a one-off basis in Tehran, as was the case in 2001 when the first Cup match was played between Japan and Australia.

The AFC-OFC Challenge Cup sees the winners of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup or Asian Games; meet the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Nations Cup champions on a biennial basis.

Iran won the Asian Games in 2002, beating Korea Republic in last year’s event in Busan. New Zealand gained the right to represent the OFC after beating Australia 1-0 in the final of the OFC Nations Cup in Auckland in July 2002.

Iran and New Zealand have met just twice in the past. The first was in 1973 when the match ended in a 0-0 draw in Auckland, while the second was five years later in the Korea Republic, with Iran winning the 1978 President’s Cup match 2-1.

AFC General Secretary Dato’ Peter Velappan, speaking yesterday from Kuala Lumpur, said that a match of high quality was in store for the Iranian fans.

“Iran, with its passionate supporters, is in for a treat as Oceania’s football is on the rise, and New Zealand has some very good players. We are confident that our team (Iran) will rise to the challenge and provide an excellent stage for sportsmanship between AFC and OFC,” he said.

OFC Acting President, Tautulu Roebeck, said today he looked forward to the match and working more closely with the AFC in the near future.

“The AFC-OFC Challenge Cup provides an excellent opportunity for exposure to quality international competition which our teams lack and we hope to expand on this in the coming years,” he said.

The AFC-OFC Challenge Cup was launched in 2001, with an inaugural event that cemented the strong friendship between the AFC and the OFC. Japan played host to OFC Nations Cup winners, Australia, at the beautiful Shizuoka Stadium. Approximately 46,000 home fans were there to see the Japan national team win 3-0 over a top class Australian side. Fostering closer relations and providing teams with valuable international experience, this second edition of the event promises to be as exciting as the inaugural match.

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