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Trudeau says inviting Iran to Vancouver soccer friendly is not 'a very good idea'

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a soccer friendly between Canada and Iran next month in Vancouver is ill-advised.

"This was a choice by Soccer Canada," Trudeau said Tuesday 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 merits of hosting Iran were raised by a reporter, citing families who had lost loved ones on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 calling the game a "slap in the face."

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 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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."

Canada is hosting Iran on June 5 in Vancouver, part of a two-game homestand at B.C. Place Stadium. The Canadian men will open CONCACAF Nations League A play there against Curacao on June 9 before closing out the FIFA international window with another CONCACAF Nations League game against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on June 13.

Canada, ranked 38th in the world, and No. 21 Iran are both preparing for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this November.

The Vancouver matches are the first for Canada on home soil since qualifying for the World Cup in a 4-0 win over Jamaica at Toronto's BMO Field on March 27. It also marks the Canadian men's first visit to B.C. Place since March 2019 when they beat French Guiana 4-1 in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying.

The Canadians topped the final round of CONCACAF qualifying with an 8-2-4 record. Their last game was a 1-0 loss in Panama on March 30.

Canada has a 1-2-0 all-time record against Iran, winning the most recent encounter 1-0 in April 2001 in Cairo. Iran posted 1-0 wins in 1997 and 1999 games in Toronto and Edmonton, respectively.

The Iran fixture is one of the few World Cup warm-ups for John Herdman's team in advance of Qatar. Herdman has said he will look to take the team to Europe in the fall to play several more matches to prepare for Qatar.

Canada opens World Cup play Nov. 23 against No. 2 Belgium before facing No. 16 Croatia on Nov. 27 and No. 24 Morocco on Dec. 1.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022

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