Should upcoming soccer friendly between Canada and Iran be cancelled?

It’s a soccer match that’s turning political.

On June 5, the Canadian men’s national soccer team will play its first match on Canadian soil since qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. The team is set to host #21-ranked Iran in an International friendly at BC Place.

Although it’s already proving to be a hot ticket, some, including the prime minister, believe organizers should have chosen a different opponent.

“This was a choice by Sport Canada, by Soccer Canada,” said Justin Trudeau Tuesday during a media scrum. “It wasn’t a very good idea to invite the Iranian soccer team here to Canada.”

On Jan. 8, 2020, Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 was mistakenly shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps just minutes after taking off from the Tehran airport.

“It’s like we have been betrayed by the government and Soccer Canada,” said Hamed Esmaeilion, a spokesperson for an advocacy group seeking justice for families of victims of Flight 752

Esmaeilion’s wife and daughter were among the 176 people who died that day, 55 of whom were Canadian. He says visas for the Iranian team should never have been granted in the first place.

“I think the best thing to do is to cancel it,” said Esmaeilion via Zoom in Toronto. “Choose another team. This is outrageous for the families, this is very disappointing for the families.”

In a statement to CTV News, Canada Soccer says it “believes in the power of sport and its ability to bring people from different backgrounds and political beliefs together” for a common purpose. “Canada soccer continues to follow all international protocols in staging this match.”

Meanwhile, Esmaelion says the game sends a mixed message, as several Canadian families and the federal government are still seeking justice for their loved ones.

“When we want to take them to international court of justice or international forum — what does it mean to invite a soccer team here and play a friendly game?”

Esmaelion says he and other families of victims plan to stage a protest during the match outside BC Place. 

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