Canada’s men’s soccer team said it refused to play its World Cup warmup match against Panama on Sunday because of a labor dispute with the nation’s governing body that includes a demand the women’s national team get equal pay.
Players, preparing for the nation’s first men’s World Cup appearance since 1986, refused to train on Friday and Saturday.
Players said they want 40% of World Cup prize money, a friends and family travel package and and “equitable structure with our women’s national team that shares 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.”
“In March we initiated contract discussions with Canada Soccer,” the men’s national team said in a statement. “Due to executives delaying the process and taking vacations, the negotiation process was unnecessarily prolonged. Canada Soccer waited until the evening of July 2 to present an archaic offer and the general secretary and president of the association only made themselves available for the first time to connect with players on June 4 at 4 pm For these reasons, we have reluctantly decided not to play our match today against Panama.”
Richard Scott, a spokesman for the Canada Soccer Association, did not respond to an email seeking comment. The governing body said in a statement on Saturday night: “Canada Soccer are currently in discussions with their national team players pertaining to fair and equitable player compensation ahead of the FIFA World Cup period.”
FIFA did not respond to a request for comment.
Canada’s women’s team is ranked sixth in the world and won the gold medal at last year’s Olympics.
“I think the players what we ask for is fair,” midfielder Jonthan Osorio, a regular not on the current roster due to an injury, told The Canadian Press. “We don’t want to be treated any more special than similar teams that we compare ourselves to. We just want to be respected and not taken advantage of and just given our fair share.”
Osorio, 29, said flights and accommodations have improved since former women’s coach John Herdman became men’s coach in January 2018.
“It’s much different than it was before,” Osorio said. “Saying that, there’s a lot that needs to happen from the federation. I think the players need to see more backing from the federation now and not only rely on John to get things done. I think those things will come with results.”
Panama was a late replacement as Sunday’s opponent, which originally was Iran. Canada’s governing body dropped Iran following criticism by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Canada is scheduled to play Curacao at Vancouver on Thursday and is at Honduras on June 13, both in the CONCACAF Nations League. No. 38 Canada opens the World Cup Group F in Qatar against second-ranked Belgium on Nov. 23, plays No. 16 Croatia four days later and no. 24 Morocco on Dec. 1.