Iran halts UAE soccer deal over naming row

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Iranian authorities have halted the proposed transfer of one of the country’s top soccer starts to a UAE club following a row over the naming of the Gulf state’s professional league.

Iran national football team captain Javad Nekounam was earlier this week due to move to newly-promoted Sharjah in a deal reportedly worth $2m.

However, Iranian media reported that authorities scuppered the deal after the UAE rebranded its professional soccer pyramid as the ‘Arabian Gulf League’ ahead of the new season. It was formerly known as the ‘UAE Pro League’.

"We had to stop him from joining the Emirati league," Iran’s Football Federation chief Ali Kafashian said was quoted as saying by the official Fars new agency, adding that Nekounam would be compensated with a sum which "we will ask the president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) to allocate."

The naming of the body of water located between Iran and the Gulf states has been a highly contentious issue in the past. The majority of Arab states, including all those in the GCC, refer to it as the ‘Arabian Gulf’, whereas Iran calls it the ‘Persian Gulf’. Iran has its own soccer tournament called the ‘Persian Gulf Cup’.

In 2012, Iran hit out at online search firm Google for leaving the body of water, located near the oil shipping route the Strait of Hormuz, nameless on its online mapping service. Iran has also previously threatened to band airlines that use the term ‘Arabian Gulf’ from its airspace.

The UAE and Iran also have a long-running dispute over the ownership of three small Gulf islands. Both countries claim Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb are part of their respective territories.

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