Egypt narrowly beat Iran in a penalty shootout Wednesday, but diplomacy was said to be the real victor in the first soccer match between the two nations, according to The Associated Press.
“Winning or losing is a secondary issue in these tournaments. They are more of a bridge between us and the participating countries for the expansion of friendly ties,” the agency quoted Mohammad Ghaffari, an Iranian soccer federation official, as saying before the game.
“We hope that football will serve as a means to improve political relations among us,” he said.
The head of the Egyptian delegation, Azmi Quraitem, called the event “very symbolic.”
“We had a choice not to come, but we did so eagerly because we want the two countries to have better ties,” he told the AP.
The match, part of a four-sided contest with South Korea and Macedonia, began after dozens of white doves of peace were released from boxes on the field.
Egyptian-Iranian ties have long been strained. Iran opposes Egypt's 1979 peace with Israel and Egypt objects to Iran's naming a street in Tehran after Khaled al-Islambouli, the Muslim militant army officer who assassinated Egypt's President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Egyptian officials have often said that the street name must be changed before relations can be fully normalized, according to the AP report – Albawaba.com
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