Canada Soccer cancels Iran pre-World Cup friendly after criticism

Canada Soccer called off Thursday a pre-World Cup friendly against Iran next month following widespread opposition to the fixture, the national governing body said Thursday.

No reason was given for the cancellation of the game that was set to be played on June 5 in Vancouver.

It would have marked the first for Canada on home soil since March when it qualified for the Nov. 21-Dec. 18 Qatar World Cup, the country’s first appearance since 1986.

The game had drawn plenty of opposition from politicians and the families of the Canadians who died aboard a Ukrainian passenger plane that was shot down near Tehran in January 2020 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had also said he felt it was “a bad idea” to invite the Iran team to Canada.

“Over the past week, the untenable geopolitical situation of hosting Iran became significantly divisive, and in response, the match was cancelled,” Canada Soccer said in a statement.

“While we considered the external factors in selecting the optimal opponent in our original decision-making process, we will strive to do better moving forward.”

Canada Soccer also said it will conduct a review of its process for the hosting of international matches and that it is working to find an alternative opponent.

The match was seen earlier by Canadian football authorities as pivotal preparation for this year’s finals in Qatar in one of the few remaining international windows of 2022.

A special Canadian forensic team had produced a report in mid-2021 that accused Iran of incompetence and recklessness over the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane. Iran criticized the report as being “highly politicized.”

The report found that while the shooting down of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 had not been premeditated, it did not absolve Iranian officials of responsibility for the incident.

The Canadian government says 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed.

Iran admitted it shot down the airliner shortly after takeoff from Tehran and blamed a “disastrous mistake” by forces on high alert during a confrontation with the United States.

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