The Canadian men’s soccer team played its part in getting a proposed friendly against Iran nixed, making their feelings felt in an email this week to a senior Canada Soccer official.
“We thought it was best that maybe this game would not be played,” veteran midfielder Jonathan Osorio said Friday after Toronto FC training. “My feeling is that around the (Canada Soccer) federation, it ended up being the same feeling as well.
“I don’t think that the decision was made based on what we sent. We just sent our concerns, with everything happening. It’s an unfortunate situation, I think. And it is what it is now. Now we’re just looking forward to getting together anyways and start preparing ourselves for what’s to come at the end of the year (the World Cup starting in November in Qatar).”
The email from the players came in the 24 hours before Canada Soccer, in the face of mounting criticism, announced Thursday that it was cancelling the planned June 5 game against Iran at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.
The choice of Iran as opponent sparked a firestorm with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Conservative MPs and B’nai Brith Canada among those decrying the game, given the Canadians who died on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.
The plane was shot down on Jan. 8, 2020, minutes after taking off from Tehran, by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The Canadian government says 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed.
More than 40,000 tickets had been sold for the Iran game.
The Iranian team was slated to arrive in Canada next Wednesday. Iran, ranked 21st in the world, is also headed to the World Cup.
The Iran game was to be the first of a two-game Vancouver homestand. The 38th-ranked Canadian men open CONCACAF Nations League A play there against Curaçao on June 9 before closing out the FIFA international window with another CONCACAF Nations League game against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on June 13.
Canada Soccer says it hopes to find another opponent to play June 5.
The 29-year-old Osorio has won 55 caps for Canada.