The Iranian football squad, known as Team Melli, during a training session (February 2022)

The Iranian football squad, known as Team Melli, during a training session

Iran Will Seek $10m In Damages From Canada Soccer: Sports Official

5/26/2022

An official says the Iranian football federation will seek $10 million in damages from Canada Soccer for canceling a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 friendly match.

“The unilateral cancelation of the Iran-Canada match by Canada Soccer once again showed that the motto of non-political athletics is a cover towards [realization of] Western countries’ interests,” Ehsan Kalhor, deputy sports minister, tweeted Thursday, adding that the Iranian Football Federation will pursue a $ 10 million compensation through legal channels based on its contract with Canada Soccer.

Kalhor’s response was made shortly after Canada Soccer announced, also in a tweet, that it had canceled the match which was planned to be held in Vancouver on June 5. Canada Soccer said additional details would be provided to all ticket purchasers later.

Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesperson for Iran's foreign ministry, on Tuesday accused Canada of politicizing the upcoming match and said Canada Soccer would be held responsible for any violations of its agreement with Iran’s football federation if the match was canceled.

The match, which was part of the Canadian men’s team’s preparation for World Cup in Qatar later this year, was called off in the face of growing criticism of Canada Soccer by activists who allege that soccer in Iran is controlled by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Critics also say the IRGC was responsible for the death of their loved ones when it fired two missiles at a Ukrainian airliner over Tehran in January 2020. Of the 176 onboard, all of whom died in the crash, 55 were Canadians of Iranian origins and 30 more were permanent residents. Iran has not allowed an independent and transparent investigation into the crash in more than two years, claiming the missiles were fired “by human error”.

Since the disaster more than two years ago, Iran has refused full cooperation with countries affected by the incident, including Canada and Ulraine, and to conduct a transparent investigation, as well as a clear expalanation of who ordered the attack on the civilian airliner.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week said the invitations by Canada Soccer “wasn’t a very good idea”.

The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims and its spokesman, Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his wife and young daughter in the crash, spearheaded the call for the cancelation of the match.

Esmaeilion who called the Canadian invitation a “slap in the face” of everyone who has been affected by the tragic crash of Flight PS752 has welcomed Canada Soccer’s decision.

Speaking to Iran International Thursday, Javad Soleimani, who also lost his newly-wed wife Elnaz Nabi in the crash, said he was happy that the match was canceled because the match was designed by the Iranian side for “sportswashing” – using sports to improve a country’s tarnished reputation -- and “whitewashing [its] crime [of downing the plane].”

But not everyone condones the moves that led to the cancelation of the game. “This is an own goal for diaspora opposition groups. Politicizing sports and targeting people to people diplomacy will not result in peace, democracy or human rights. Banning Iranians because they are Iranian will only come back to haunt all of us,” President of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council (NIAC), Jamal Abdi, tweeted.

Ukraine’s ambassador-designate to Canada, Yulia Kovaliv has called on Canada Soccer to have a friendly match with Ukraine's soccer team instead. In a tweet Thursday, she said the $400,000 dollars which Canada Soccer had reportedly agreed to pay Iran’s football federation could then be used for humanitarian needs of Ukrainians affected by Russia's war. “I guess it’s win-win.”

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