Iranian government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi has berated Canada for cancelling a friendly football match with Iran, saying it shows the influence of politics on sports in the West.
“The unilateral cancellation of the Iranian national football team's game against Canada is another example of the impact of politics on sport,” Jahromi wrote in a post on his Instagram page on Friday.
He said Canada took the decision despite making a claim not to allow political considerations to influence sports decisions.
The Iranian official’s remarks came after Canada Soccer, the governing body of football in Canada, on Thursday announced it had cancelled the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 friendly match with Iran that was scheduled to be held in Vancouver on June 5.
More than 40,000 tickets had been sold for the match at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.
The Iranian team was slated to arrive in Canada next Wednesday as part of preparations for the FIFA World Cup scheduled to take place in Qatar from 21 November to 18 December 2022.
“Over the past week, the untenable geopolitical situation of hosting Iran became significantly divisive, and in response, the match was cancelled,” Canada Soccer said in a statement on Thursday.
“While we considered the external factors in selecting the optimal opponent in our original decision-making process, we will strive to do better moving forward.”
Jahromi further said that Western sanctions on Russian athletes constitute another instance of their prioritizing politics over freedom and human rights.
Such actions on the part of the West come while it refuses to take similar measures concerning other countries that are blamed for starting military actions or even those that are accused of genocide and other terrorist measures, the spokesman remarked.
Kazem Gharibabadi, the deputy chief of the Iranian judiciary and secretary of the High Council for Human Rights also decried Canada's decision to cancel the football friendly.
“Canada’s decision to call off a friendly with Iran is testimony to the fact that the so-called Land of the Free can’t keep politics off the pitch,” he said in a tweet on Friday.
An official of Iran’s sports ministry said on Thursday the country’s football federation will seek $10 million in damages from the Canadian soccer body for cancelling the match.
Sina Kalhor, Iran's Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs said the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) would seek compensation from Canada.
“The unilateral cancellation 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,” he tweeted, adding that the compensation will be sought through legal channels.
On Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh accused Canada of politicizing the match and warned that Canada Soccer would be held responsible for any violations of its agreement with Iran’s football federation if the match was cancelled.
It came after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the friendly game against Iran “wasn't a very good idea,” criticizing his country’s football boy for plans to host the match.