Canada Soccer has been denounced by the families of the victims of Flight PS752, which was shot down by Iranian forces in 2020 killing 85 Canadians, for hosting a men’s soccer match against Iran in Vancouver in June.
The families called on Canada Soccer, the governing body for soccer in Canada, to cancel the planned “soccer friendly,” saying it was an insult to the memories of their loved ones who perished when the plane went down, CBC News reported.
Flight PS752 was shot down by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards with surface-to-air missiles in 2020.
They also called on the Canadian government to refuse entry visas to players, coaches and others travelling with the Iranian team.
"They have no understanding, they have no sympathy, they have no hearts, in my opinion, Canada Soccer," said Hamed Esmaeilion, spokesperson for the association representing families, according to the CBC. Esmaeilion’s wife and 9-year-old daughter were killed when the plane was shot down.
"I feel betrayed by the organization and betrayed by the government,” he said. “This is a way to normalize the relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran. It's called sports-washing."
According to a report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the families of the victims have been continually harassed and intimidated by "threat actors linked to proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
The families are also worried that the scheduled match could potentially allow Revolutionary Guard members to access the country by travelling with the team into Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the game was not set up by the government, and called for Canada Soccer to issue an explanation. He also would not comment on whether the country would refuse visas to the team and its entourage.
"This was a choice by [Canada Soccer]," Trudeau said at a press conference in St. John's, Newfoundland. "I think it wasn't a very good idea to invite the Iranian soccer team here to Canada, but that's something the organizer's going to have to explain."
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre also denounced the planned match in a statement on Facebook, calling for the Iranian team to be denied entry to Canada.
“The families of Flight PS752 victims are right,” Poiliever said. “Canada has no business welcoming Iran here for a soccer match. The federal government should reject visa applications related to this match.”