Canada Soccer cancels exhibition match with Iran after downed Flight PS752 outrage

Canada Soccer cancels exhibition match with Iran after downed Flight PS752 outrage
2 min read
26 May, 2022
News of the scheduled match, which was set to take place on 5 June as part of preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, had drawn the ire of families of those who died aboard Flight PS752 two years ago.
Almost half of those killed when Flight PS752 crashed were Canadian citizens or permanent residents [Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty]

Canada's football governing body on Thursday said it had cancelled a friendly match with Iran, as families of the victims of a passenger jet downed by Iranian air defences campaigned against the match.

News of the scheduled match, which was set to take place on 5 June in Vancouver as part of preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, had drawn ire from the families of those who died aboard Flight PS752 two years ago.

Canada Soccer announced that the match had been cancelled via Twitter, without giving a reason.

International investigations found that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had shot down Flight PS752 as it took off, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board. Almost half of the victims were Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Iran said the plane had crashed due to a series of human errors.

"They have no understanding, they have no sympathy, they have no hearts, in my opinion, Canada Soccer," Hamed Esmaeilion, spokesperson for the association representing families of the victims told CBC News.

"I feel betrayed by the organisation and betrayed by the government ... This is a way to normalise the relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran. It's called sportswashing."

Furore over the game grew louder earlier this week, when the head of Iran's national team claimed that Canada Soccer was paying the Iranian football federation $400,000 for the match.

Canada Soccer neither confirmed nor denied the payment, and on Tuesday defended its decision to host the match.

"Iran is one of 32 participating member associations at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and Canada Soccer continues to follow all international protocols in staging this match," read a statement released Tuesday.

Politicians including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waded into the controversy.

"I think it wasn't a very good idea to invite the Iranian soccer team here to Canada, but that's something the organiser's going to have to explain," the Canadian premier told CBC News.

Canada and Iran have had no formal diplomatic relations since 2012. The Flight PS752 tragedy exacerbated tensions between the two countries.