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Canada-Panama soccer game canceled |  CTV News

Canada-Panama soccer game canceled | CTV News

Canada-Panama soccer game canceled |  CTV News

Canada’s men’s soccer team has refused to play a scheduled World Cup warmup match against Panama amid a contract dispute between the players and the sport’s national governing body.

Canada Soccer confirmed the match, scheduled for Sunday at Vancouver’s BC Place, had been canceled less than two hours before kickoff. Hundreds of fans dressed in red and white uniforms lingered outside the stadium after the news broke.

The Canadian players issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying they decided not to play the game because the negotiations over a new deal had been “unnecessarily prolonged.”

“It’s time we take a stand for the future of soccer in Canada,” the statement said.

The players said they want more transparency from Canada Soccer, changes in the organization’s leadership, and World Cup compensation that includes 40 per cent of prize money and a “comprehensive friends and family package” for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“We want to work together with our organization, but the relationship has been strained for years,” the statement said. “And now, Canada Soccer has disrespected our team and jeopardized our efforts to raise the standards and effectively advance the game in Canada.”

Players also want a review of the Canada Soccer deal signed with Canadian Soccer Business in 2018. The 10-year agreement sees Canadian Soccer Business represent both the men’s and women’s national teams in all sponsorship and broadcast deals.

The players’ statement said the deal “completely compromised (Canada Soccer’s) ability to leverage the on-field success of our senior national teams.”

“We need the terms of this agreement to be disclosed and corrected,” it said. “We want to know who signed this deal that has handcuffed our association. Why have Canada Soccer given up autonomy of the greatest opportunity to grow our program in years?”

The players are also asking for an equitable compensation structure for the men’s and women’s teams, and the development of a women’s domestic league.

The US Soccer Federation recently agreed to collective bargaining agreements that equalized compensation for the men’s and women’s teams for the first time.

Canada canceled a pair of training sessions scheduled for Friday and Saturday due to the contract dispute.

Canada Soccer issued a statement late Saturday night saying it is “currently in discussions with their national team players pertaining to fair and equitable player compensation ahead of the FIFA World Cup period.”

The men’s team has not played on home soil since it beat Jamaica 4-0 in Toronto on March 27 and clinched a spot in the World Cup. It’s been even longer since the squad played in Vancouver, with its last appearance coming in March 2019, when Canada beat French Guiana 4-1 in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying.

Canada, ranked 38th in the world, is scheduled to kick off CONCACAF Nations League play against No. 79 Curaçao in Vancouver on June 9.

“We want to apologize to our fans,” the players said in their statement. “Playing at home with your support is everything to us. We hope Canada Soccer will take decisive steps to work with our team so we can be back on the field for our match (in Vancouver) on June 9.”

It’s not the first time Canada Soccer has canceled a game scheduled for the current international window. Canada was initially set to host Iran in a friendly at BC Place on Sunday, but the match drew heavy criticism, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying it “wasn’t a very good idea” to invite the Iranian team to play.

An Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on Jan. 8, 2020 shortly after takeoff from Tehran, killing 176 people, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

More than 40,000 tickets for the Canada-Iran game were sold before it was canceled by Canada Soccer on May 26. Panama was named as the replacement opponent on May 31.

Canada has not played in a World Cup since 1986. It’s set to open this year’s tournament on Nov. 23 against No. 2 Belgium before facing No. 16 Croatia on Nov. 27 and No. 24 Morocco on Dec. 1.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2022.

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