A planned training session for Canada’s men’s soccer team was scrapped Friday amid ongoing discussions about player compensation.
The team is in Vancouver ahead of a friendly match against Panama set for Sunday and a CONCACAF Nations League game against Curacao on June 9.
Canada Soccer’s advanced teams set up equipment at the Vancouver Whitecaps’ training facility Friday afternoon, but packed it back up and left the field empty minutes before the session was set to begin.
TSN is reporting that players refused to participate in training because of a contract dispute that involves, in part, how much the athletes will get for playing in the World Cup.
A spokesperson for Canada Soccer said Saturday that discussions on player compensation are ongoing.
Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio spoke with The Canadian Press about the negotiations late last month.
“I think the players what we ask for is fair,” he said. “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, has made 55 appearances for Canada with seven goals and seven assists but is not currently with the team as he deals with a lower-body injury.
The Toronto native said players for the national team have seen an improvement in things such as hotels and flights since head coach John Herdman took over the team 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.”
Canada Soccer’s president, Nick Bontis, and his interim general secretary were set to land in Vancouver on Saturday afternoon. A spokesperson for the association said their trip was planned before Friday.
The men’s team was scheduled to train Saturday but it was unclear whether the session went ahead as planned.
Herdman has said that every minute his group spends together is “crucial” as it prepares to compete on the world’s biggest stage in November.
“There isn’t a minute that can be wasted at this moment,” he said in a statement when the team’s roster was released last month.
Sunday’s game is the first of three for Canada, ranked 38th in the world, in the current international window.
No. 61 Panama wasn’t initially on the Canadians’ schedule for this window. Canada was set to take on Iran in a friendly on June 5 but the matchup drew heated criticism, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying it “wasn’t a very good idea.”
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.
Canada Soccer canceled the game on May 26 and Panama was named as the replacement opponent on May 31.
After hosting no. 79 Curacao at BC Place, Canada is scheduled to travel to San Pedro Sula to take on No. 82 Honduras on June 13.
With files from Neil Davidson in Toronto.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2022.