Canada-Panama game canceled over work, equal pay dispute

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Canada’s World Cup warm-up match against Panama has been called off Sunday, when the men’s team refused to play over a labor dispute with the nation’s governing body that includes a demand that the women’s national team be paid equal playing fees.

The players preparing for the nation’s first World Cup appearance since 1986 refused to train on Friday and Saturday.

The players said they wanted 40% of the World Cup prize money, a travel package for friends and family and “a fair structure with our women’s national team, which has the same player fees, the same percentage of prize money earned at our respective FIFA World Cups and development.” shares a national women’s league.”

The US men’s and women’s national team unions announced May 18 agreements calling for equal pay, including a pooling of World Cup prize money. The Canadian men said they want an equal percentage of prize money and equal match fees.

“In March we started contract talks with Canada Soccer,” the men’s national team said in a statement. “Because executives delayed the process and took vacations, the negotiation process was unnecessarily prolonged. Canada Soccer waited until the evening of July 2 to make an archaic offer, and the federation’s general secretary and president only made himself available to engage with players for the first time at 4pm on June 4. For these reasons, we reluctantly decided against playing our game against Panama today.”

Richard Scott, a spokesman for the Football Canada Association, did not respond to an email seeking comment. The governing body said in a statement Saturday night: “Canada Soccer is currently in discussions with its national team players for fair and equitable player compensation ahead of the FIFA World Cup.”

FIFA did not respond to a request for comment.

The Canadian women’s team ranks sixth in the world and won the gold medal at last year’s Olympics.

“I think the players we’re asking for are fair,” midfielder Jonthan Osorio, who is not in the current squad due to injury, told The Canadian Press. “We don’t want to be treated any more specifically than similar teams we compare ourselves to. We just want to be respected, not taken advantage of, and only want 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 very different from before,” Osorio said. “However, a lot has to happen on the part of the association. I think the players need to get more support from the federation now and not just rely on John to get things done. I think those things will come with results.”

Panama came on late as Sunday’s opponent who was originally Iran. Canada’s governing body dumped Iran after criticism from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canada play Curaçao in Vancouver on Thursday and Honduras on June 13, both in the CONCACAF Nations League. Canada, No. 38, open World Cup Group F in Qatar on November 23 against second-placed Belgium, play four days later against No. 16 Croatia and on December 1, No. 24 Morocco.

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