Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Iran–Saudi Arabia football rivalry

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Other names  Iran vs Saudi Arabia
Teams  Iran  Saudi Arabia
Locale  Asia
Meetings total  15
First meeting  24 August 1975 (42 years ago)
Latest meeting  Iran 0–0 Saudi Arabia WAFF Championship (9 December 2012)

The Iran and Saudi Arabia national football teams are sporting rivals who have played each other since 1975.


The game has been ranked 9th in Bleacher Report's "International Football's 10 Most Politically-Charged Football Rivalries" and 8th in's "Football's 10 Greatest International Rivalries".

Iran and Saudi Arabia have had 15 matches so far. All of their matches have been competitive and they have never played a friendly match. The first match was played on 24 August 1975, with Iran defeating Saudi Arabia 3–0.


The two have long battled for West Asian supremacy and their matches have been "always tight, tense and furiously competitive". Another fissure between the two is religion. While Iran is the spiritual homeland of Shia Islam (since the Safavid dynasty), Saudi Arabia is a country with a Sunni Islam majority. These two religious sects form a minority in the other country (see Sunni Islam in Iran and Shia Islam in Saudi Arabia).

The countries also have had chronic political tensions in the last decades. (see Iran–Saudi Arabia relations)

The rivalry has been expanded into club matches as well. For example, after the Saudi Arabian national team's away win in March 2009, Saudi players sword-danced in front of 100,000 angry Iranian fans in Azadi Stadium. When Zob Ahan eliminated Al-Hilal in the 2010 AFC Champions League semi-final, Iranian players mocked the dance in front of Saudi fans. When Persepolis was scheduled to play away at Ittihad in the 2011 AFC Champions League, Saudi immigration authorities forced Iranian players to be fingerprinted and irises scanned upon their arrival at Jeddah airport. The Iranians refused to do so and were held at the airport for 8 hours.

Iranian football fans take most pleasure in defeating Saudi Arabia, alongside Bahrain, whose players used to wave Saudi Arabian flags when they defeated Iran 3–1 during their 2002 World Cup qualification.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia refused to play in Iran during the 2016 AFC Champions League.




Iran–Saudi Arabia football rivalry Wikipedia