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Canadian national football team players refused to take the field on Sunday for an international friendly against Panama at BC Place in Vancouver, over a contract dispute.
Canada Soccer announced that the game had been canceled less than two hours before the scheduled kick-off. The team had canceled practices on Friday and Saturday while Canada Soccer players and officials worked on an agreement.
Just before the game was cancelled, the players sent a letter to Canadian football fans:
Four years ago, we embarked on a mission to leave our program in a better place than we found it. At the time, it was more than 30 years ago that our country was represented at the FIFA Men’s World Cup. Apart from our collective childhood dreams of playing at a World Cup. We hoped that the qualification of this team would bring a level of respect and financial opportunity that would raise the standards and opportunity for the next generation of players in our country and change the trajectory of football in Canada forever.
Despite the unprecedented success of both the women’s and men’s national teams in 2021/22, we have not seen any changes. Where is the progression? Where’s the money?
We recently learned that in 2018 Canada Soccer signed an agreement with Canadian Soccer Business that completely compromised their ability to leverage the success of our senior national teams on the field. In order to stand any chance of creating substantial, lasting change for all Canada Soccer programs, the terms of this Agreement must be disclosed and corrected. We want to know who signed this deal that captivated our association. Why has Canada Soccer relinquished the greatest opportunity to grow our program in years?
We would like to cooperate with our organization, but the relationship has been tense for years. And now Canadian football has disrespected our team and jeopardized our efforts to raise standards and effectively advance the game in Canada.
In March we started contract negotiations with Canada Soccer. Due to executives delaying the process and taking vacations, the negotiation process was unnecessarily extended. Canada Soccer waited until the evening of June 2 to present an archaic offer and the general secretary & president of the association only made themselves available for the first time on June 4 at 4pm to make contact with the players
For these reasons, we have reluctantly decided not to play our game against Panama today. It’s time we take a stand for the future of football in Canada.
Come on, we have…
— Transparency and review of the Canadian Soccer Business Agreement.
— A leadership team capable of optimizing this moment and generating revenue from corporate sponsorship to be used to drive the game forward at all levels for years to come (Elementary, Youth, Para and Senior Programs).
— An equitable structure with our women’s national team, sharing the same player match fees, percentage of prize money earned at our respective FIFA World Cups, and the development of a women’s domestic league.
— World Cup Compensation that includes 40% of the prize money and a comprehensive Friends and Family Package for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
— More former men’s, women’s and para team players integrated into leadership positions within Canada Soccer Board & Organization.
These are the fundamental elements that we will be wary of shifting football in our country.
We would like to apologize to our fans. Playing at home with your support, that’s all for us. We hope Canada Soccer will take decisive steps to work with our team so that we can get back on the pitch for our game on June 9.
We also want to apologize to the players, fans, staff and association of Panama.
It is a great privilege and a great responsibility to represent and play our country. We are on our guard for you, for us and for future generations.
The Canadian Men’s National Team
We are brothers. We fear nothing. We are on guard.
Canada reached the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar by finishing first in the final Concacaf qualifying group, ahead of Mexico and the United States.
It marks the first time Canada has qualified for the Men’s World Cup since its only previous appearance in Mexico in 1986.
The cancellation of the match is the latest saga for the national men’s team in the run-up to the World Cup from November 21 to December 18 in Qatar. Canada was drawn into Group F during the 32-team tournament with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco.
Canada Soccer had originally scheduled a friendly against Iran at BC Place this weekend, ahead of a pair of Concacaf Nations League games against Curaçao and next week in Honduras.
However, the match had to be canceled when Canada Soccer faced backlash for hosting the Iranians in light of the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 shortly after takeoff from Tehran en route to Kiev on January 8, 2020.
The Canadian government said 55 Canadians and 30 permanent residents were killed among the 176 people killed when the plane was shot down by two Iranian surface-to-air missiles.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among those who criticized Canada Soccer for scheduling the match.
“This was Soccer Canada’s choice,” Trudeau said in May. “I don’t think it was a good idea to invite the Iranian football team to Canada here, but the organizers have to explain that.”
Canada Soccer has not yet responded to a request for comment on the cancellation of the game against Panama.