Canada Soccer has called off a planned friendly with Iran next month in Vancouver amid growing criticism.
In a one-paragraph statement, the governing body had no reason for pulling the game, scheduled for June 5 at B.C. Place Stadium.
But the idea of hosting the Iranian team, ranked 21st in the world, has drawn fire since it was first announced.
At issue is whether Canada should be hosting Iran given the Canadians who died on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 when it was shot down on Jan. 8, 2020, minutes after taking off from Tehran, by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.
In a statement, the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims called for Canada Soccer “to cancel the game immediately.”
Hamed Esmaeilion’s wife and nine-year-old daughter were killed, and speaks on behalf of other families who lost loved ones in the tragedy.
He applauds the move to cancel the game but had hoped the families would be told personally.
“It was surprising to me that Soccer Canada never picked up the phone and called family members,” he told CityNews. “That was the basic thing they could do. I am the representative of 138 families…but they didn’t bother to do that.”
“We have to wait and see what’s next,” he said, adding that he believes the government needs to set a policy so that this doesn’t happen again.
“Then nobody will sign a contract with people related with IRGC,” he said, calling for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to be classified as a terrorist organization by Canada.
The prime minister also spoke out against Canada hosting the exhibition game — saying the match was ill-advised.
“This was a choice by Soccer Canada,” Trudeau previously said in St. John’s when asked about the match. “I think it wasn’t a very good idea to invite the Iranian soccer team here to Canada. But that’s something that the organizers are going to have to explain.”
The federal government has said Canada’s priority “is to seek answers and pursue justice by holding Iran accountable and pursuing reparations, while continuing to provide the families and loved ones of the victims with the support they need.”
The Canadian government says 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed.
Conservative MPs added their voice to the protest on Wednesday.
The match was part of the men’s national team preparations for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.