TORONTO – Canada Soccer has canceled a planned friendly with Iran amid growing criticism. In a one-paragraph statement, the governing body gave no reason for canceling the scheduled June 5 game at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.
TORONTO – Canada Soccer has canceled a planned friendly with Iran amid growing criticism.
In a one-paragraph statement, the governing body gave no reason for canceling the scheduled June 5 game at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.
But the idea of hosting the Iran team, ranked at No. 21 in the world, has been condemned since it was first announced.
It is questionable whether Canada, given the Canadians who died on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 when it was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile on January 8, 2020, minutes after takeoff from Tehran, Iran should accommodate. According to the Canadian government, among the 176 dead were 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week said the game was “not a very good idea,” pointing the finger at Canada Soccer. The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims called on Canada Soccer to “cancel the game immediately”.
Association spokesman Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife Parisa and young daughter Reera were among those killed 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 international courts. And instead we are 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.”
Conservative MPs added their voice to Wednesday’s protest. And the prime minister said this week that it will be up to the Canada Border Services Agency whether the Iranian team will be allowed into the country.
Ralph Goodale, Canada’s High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, added his voice to the rising chorus of disapproval on Wednesday.
“This behavior by Canada Soccer is repulsive. It challenges both the competence and values of the organization,” he tweeted.
In March 2020, Goodale became the prime minister’s special adviser “on Canada’s response to Iran’s downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752”.
The Iran game was to be the first of two home games in Vancouver. The Canada men open the CONCACAF Nations League A game there on June 9 against Curaçao before closing the FIFA international game in San Pedro Sula on June 13 with another CONCACAF Nations League game against Honduras.
Canada, ranked at No. 38 in the world, and Iran are both preparing for November’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
For Canada Soccer, the Iran competition was a rare opportunity to test the Canadian men against a team outside of their CONCACAF confederation, which includes North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The Canadians have only played two teams from outside their region since John Herdman took office in January 2018: a 1-0 loss to Iceland in January 2020 and a 1-0 win over New Zealand in March 2018.
The FIFA International window opens on Monday, with players arriving from their clubs around the world. Now they get more training time than one game ahead of CONCACAF Nations League games.
Canada have not played on home soil since qualifying for the World Cup with a 4-0 win over Jamaica on March 27 at Toronto’s BMO Field. The Canada men last played at BC Place in March 2019, when they beat French Guiana 4-1 in CONCACAF Nations League qualifiers.
The Canadians won the final round of CONCACAF qualifiers with a 8-2-4 record. Their last game was a 1-0 loss in Panama on March 30th.
Canada has an all-time 1-2-0 record against Iran, the last time they won 1-0 in Cairo in April 2001. Iran won the 1997 and 1999 Toronto and Edmonton games 1-0.
Canada open World Cup play on November 23 against No. 2 Belgium before taking on No. 16 Croatia on November 27 and No. 24 Morocco on December 1.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 26, 2022.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press