Soccer (illustration)
Soccer (illustration) iStock

B’nai Brith Canada expressed outrage after learning that Canada Soccer is giving the Iranian Football Federation $400,000 to pay for the team’s alleged expenses for an exhibition match scheduled to occur in Vancouver on June 5.

Canada Soccer has agreed to fund the team with the $400,000 stipend, even though a report in Iran International said that the team will only need to spend $200,000. The report stated the team will simply pocket the remaining $200,000, B’nai Brith said in a statement.

Canada Soccer is subsidized mainly by the Canadian government, meaning taxpayers would be giving the Iranian team $400,000.

B’nai Brith noted that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) controls the Iranian Football Federation, and that the Canadian government has been ignoring a parliamentary motion to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization for four years.

“Anyone associated with the IRGC should not be allowed to enter Canada, let alone be showcased in a soccer match,” B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn said. “If the Government of Canada cannot directly pull the plug on this soccer match, it should use the threat to our public safety to refuse visas. It’s shocking that people who openly associate with Iran’s intelligence agents would be able enter Canada.”

With Iran killing 85 Canadians when it shot down flight PS752 only two years ago, Mostyn said that the “notion that the victims’ surviving family members would indirectly pay through their tax dollars for the Iranian Soccer team’s visit to Canada is an affront to our values.”

B’nai Brith pointed out that news of the “soccer friendly” between Canada and Iran has “caused a national uproar.” While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed reservations about the match, he has only suggested that Soccer Canada withdraw the invitation to Iran but so far has refused to do more.

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."

B’nai Brith demanded that Ottawa take action, saying that the decision to rescind the invitation is within the government’s purview.

“Prominent Iranian dissident and journalist Masih Alinejad recently said she told the FBI about a link between Iran’s soccer team and the plot to kidnap her in Brooklyn,” said Marvin Rotrand, B’nai Brith’s National Director of its League for Human Rights. “Photos have surfaced of Iranian team manager Hamid Estili with Mahmoud Khazein, long identified as an Iranian intelligence operative. Khazein is facing criminal charges in the United States, including conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money-laundering. Three of the intended victims were in Canada.”

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre 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.”