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Iran says Canada's football friendly cancellation political

Canadian fans celebrate after the team's qualification for the World Cup in March 2022
— Tehran (AFP)

Tehran on Friday said "politics" was behind the decision by Canadian football authorities to cancel a friendly against Iran in preparation for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 finals.

"Canada’s decision to call off a friendly with Iran is testimony to the fact" that it "can’t keep politics off the pitch", Kazem Gharibabadi, vice-president of Iran's judiciary tweeted.

Canada's game against Iran in Vancouver on June 5 was seen by Canadian football authorities as pivotal to preparations for the finals to be held in Qatar later this year.

But the fixture created controversy, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opposed to the game, describing it as a "bad idea".

The families of passengers killed when Iranian armed forces shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 after take-off from Tehran on January 8, 2020 had criticised the fixture.

Eighty-five Canadian citizens and permanent residents were among the 176 people killed in what the Iranian armed forces described as a "mistake".

Shortly after the Canadian decision, Iran's "Team Melli" media officer Mohammad Jamaat told state television that Tehran will "file a complaint to FIFA", the world game's governing body, against the Canadian decision.

In January, Iran qualified for the World Cup finals, their third in a row and sixth overall.

Canada's national team will be playing its first World Cup finals in 36 years.

Iran, who have never advanced beyond the group stage, will face the United States and England along with another European team from play-off games in Group B, while Canada in Group F are pitched against Belgium, Morocco and Croatia.