The match against Iran was arranged to aid Canada's preparations for their first men's FIFA World Cup appearance since 1986 later this year ©Getty Images

Canada has pulled out of a men's football friendly fixture Iran, after the country's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the high-profile figures who voiced their opposition, describing the match as a "bad idea".

There have been no formal diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran since 2012 due to Tehran's support of Bashar al-Assad's Syrian Government in the ongoing Civil War.

Tensions further escalated in January 2020 when Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 to Kyiv was shot down after taking off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board including 85 Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

The Iranian Government later admitted that the jet had been shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, blaming a "human error" for the firing of missiles.

Canada has qualified for the men's FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1986, and had arranged to host Iran on June 5 in a match billed as a warm-up for the tournament in Qatar later this year.

A report also emerged from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that governing body the Canadian Soccer Association would pay CAD 400,000 (£250,000/$315,000/€295,000) to the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation (FFIRI) for competing in the fixture.

Families of the victims of the flight PS752 disaster had criticised the plans, while Trudeau weighed in with criticism.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he thought the friendly against Iran was a
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he thought the friendly against Iran was a "bad idea", with the countries holding no formal diplomatic relations since 2012 ©Getty Images

"I've expressed my concern that I think this game was a bad idea," the Canadian Prime Minister said.

"I can assure you that Sport Canada has not delivered any funding for this game.

"And in terms of the ability of those players to come to Canada and the teams to come to Canada, the border services agencies make professional and independent decisions on eligibility for people to come to Canada."

The Canadian Soccer Association said that it had "the best intentions in striving to ensure that the men’s national team gains important experience against FIFA World Cup teams in preparation for Qatar 2022", but that it would review its procedures for arranging matches.

"Over the past week, the untenable geopolitical situation of hosting Iran became significantly divisive, and in response, the match was cancelled," a statement read.

"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. 

"Canada Soccer will be conducting a thorough review of our processes for the hosting of international matches to ensure no stone is left unturned in our pursuit of excellence both on and off the pitch, including consultation with all stakeholders.

Iran are FIFA's highest ranked men's football team for Asia ©Getty Images
Iran are FIFA's highest ranked men's football team for Asia ©Getty Images

"We are committed to creating respectful and inclusive environments for teams, players, and fans."

It added that it would work to find an alternative opponent, and that ticket holders would be refunded.

Canadian Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge welcomed the decision.

"We commend Canada Soccer for making this decision and we look forward to cheering on our men's soccer team during the 2022 World Cup," she said, as reported by Agence France-Presse.

Iran's Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Sina Kalhor has threatened that the FFIRI could pursue a $10 million (£7.9 million/€9.3 million) compensation claim against the Canadian Soccer Association.

Canada is due to co-host an expanded men's World Cup with the United States and Mexico in 2026.

With the tournament set to increase from 32 to 48 teams and eight berths available for Asia, Iran would have a strong chance of qualifying for a fourth consecutive World Cup as the continent's highest ranked team.

Earlier this year, United for Navid, a group of exiled Iranian athletes and activists established following the execution of wrestler Navid Afkari in September 2020, called on FIFA to suspend the FFIRI and ban Iran from the 2022 World Cup after women were prevented from entering the stadium for a qualifier against Lebanon.