Canada cancels June 5 exhibition vs Iran after criticism

TORONTO (AP) Canada's exhibition against Iran at Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 5 was canceled on Thursday following criticism by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

"Over the past week, the untenable geopolitical situation of hosting Iran became significantly divisive, and in response, the match was canceled," the Canada Soccer Association said in a statement Thursday. "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 will be conducting a thorough review of our processes for the hosting of international matches to ensure no stone is left unturned in our pursuit of excellence both on and off the pitch, including consultation with all stakeholders."

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down on Jan. 8, 2020, minutes after taking off from Tehran by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The Canadian government says 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed.

Canada Soccer announced the match on May 12, part of preparations for the nation's first World Cup appearance since 1986.

"This was a choice by Soccer Canada," Trudeau said five days later. "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."

Ralph Goodale, Canada's high commissioner to the United Kingdom, tweeted Wednesday: "This behavior by Canada Soccer is repugnant. It calls into question both the competence and the values of the organization."

The CSA said it will try to find an new opponent. Canada plays Curacao at Vancouver on June 9 and is at Honduras on June 13, both in the CONCACAF Nations League. No. 38 Canada opens the World Cup Group F in Qatar against second-ranked Belgium on Nov. 23, plays No. 16 Croatia four days later and No. 24 Morocco on Dec. 1.

No 21 Iran starts Group B against fifth-ranked England on Nov. 21, meets Wales, Scotland or Ukraine four days later and closes the first round against the 15th-ranked United States on Nov. 29.

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Updated May 26, 2022

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