Canada Soccer cancels scheduled friendly with Iran amid growing criticism
TORONTO — Canada Soccer has canceled a scheduled friendly with Iran amid growing criticism. In a one-paragraph statement, the governing body gave no reason for the cancellation of the game scheduled for June 5 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.
TORONTO — Canada Soccer has canceled a scheduled friendly with Iran amid growing criticism.
In a one-paragraph statement, the governing body gave no reason for the cancellation of the game scheduled for June 5 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.
But the idea of hosting the Iranian team, ranked 21st in the world, has been doomed since it was first announced.
The question is whether Canada should host Iran given the Canadians who died on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 when it was shot down on January 8, 2020, minutes after taking off from Tehran, by a Iranian surface-to-air missile. The Canadian government says 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week the match “wasn’t a very good idea”, pointing the finger at Canada Soccer. The Association of Families of Victims of Flight PS752 has asked Canada Soccer to “cancel the match immediately”.
Association spokesman Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife Parisa and young daughter Reera were among those who died on flight 752, said in an interview last week. “What kind of friendship do we have with the Islamic Republic of Iran?
“We want the (Canadian) government to take them to an international tribunal. And instead, we’re humiliated by them… I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back — (as well as) the other family members. After 28 months, we see no signs of seeking justice here. We see no sign of bringing Iran to an international forum. And instead they invite the (Iranian) football team here.
Tory MPs added their voices to the protest on Wednesday. And the Prime Minister said this week that it will be up to the Canada Border Services Agency to decide whether the Iranian team is allowed to enter the country.
Ralph Goodale, Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, added his voice on Wednesday to the growing chorus of disapproval.
“This behavior by Canada Soccer is repugnant. It calls into question both the competence and the values of the organization,” he tweeted.
In March 2020, Goodale became a special adviser to the Prime Minister “on Canada’s response to Iran’s downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752”.
The game against Iran was to be the first of a two-game home series in Vancouver. The Canadian men there open the CONCACAF Nations League A match against Curacao on June 9 before closing the FIFA international window with another CONCACAF Nations League match against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on June 13.
Canada, ranked 38th in the world, and Iran are both preparing for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November.
For Canada Soccer, the game against Iran was a rare opportunity to test the Canadian men against a team outside their CONCACAF confederation, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The Canadians have faced only two teams from outside their region since John Herdman took over as coach in January 2018: a 1-0 loss to Iceland in January 2020 and a 1-0 win over New Zealand in March 2018.
FIFA’s international window opens on Monday, with players arriving from their clubs around the world. Now they will get extended training time rather than a game before CONCACAF Nations League matches.
Canada has not played at home since qualifying for the World Cup in a 4-0 win over Jamaica at BMO Field in Toronto on March 27. The Canadian men last played at BC Place in March 2019 when they beat French Guiana 4-1 in CONCACAF Nations League Qualifiers.
The Canadians dominated the final round of CONCACAF qualifying with an 8-2-4 record. Their last match was a 1-0 defeat at Panama on March 30.
Canada is 1-2-0 all-time against Iran, winning the most recent meeting 1-0 in April 2001 in Cairo. Iran won 1-0 in 1997 and 1999 games in Toronto and Edmonton, respectively.
Canada will open the World Cup game on November 23 against second-placed Belgium before facing No. 16 Croatia on November 27 and Morocco (24th) on December 1.
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This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 26, 2022.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press