Canada’s men football team go on strike forcing friendly with Panama to be called off

Canada’s men’s football team refused to play a match on Sunday against Panama amid strained labor negotiations with the nation’s governing body, as players seek to level match fees and share World Cup prize money with the women’s team.

The game was called off just two hours before it was set to start at Vancouver’s BC Place. The players also refused to train Friday and Saturday as the team prepares for its first World Cup appearance since 1986.

The team issued a statement Sunday amid heated negotiations with Canada Soccer, which came less than a month after the unions for the American men’s and women’s team reached a landmark agreement with US Soccer for equal pay.

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

The men said they want 40 per cent of World Cup prize money, a friends and family travel package and an ‘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.’

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

Alphonso Davies is Canada’s most high-profile player and the Bayern Munich star reportedly earns £113,000-per-week at the German giants. The national captain Atiba Hutchinson is believed to earn £24,000-per-week at Turkish outfit Besiktas.

Chrisine Sinclair is Canada women’s record goalscorer with a staggering 189 goals in 310 games but earns just £5,800-per-week at the Portland Thorns, it is believed.

Canada fans were left disappointed after their match against Panama was called off on Sunday

Many turned up to Vancouver's BC Place before being left disappointed ahead of kick-off

Many turned up to Vancouver’s BC Place before being left disappointed ahead of kick-off

It comes after the players upheld their strike against their governing body as they seek to level match fees and share World Cup prize money with the women's team

It comes after the players upheld their strike against their governing body as they seek to level match fees and share World Cup prize money with the women’s team

Canada will attend their first World Cup in 36 years after qualifying for Qatar back in March

Canada will attend their first World Cup in 36 years after qualifying for Qatar back in March

Alphonso Davies (left) is one of Canada's highest-profile stars

As is captain Atiba Hutchinson

Alphonso Davies (left) and captain Atiba Hutchinson are two of Canada’s highest-profile stars

On the women's side, that is record goalscorer Christine Sinclair

And Jessie Fleming too

On the women’s side, that is record goalscorer Christine Sinclair (left) and Jessie Fleming

Nick Bontis, president of Canada Soccer, apologized to fans who had planned to attend the match at a news conference on Sunday evening, but also called the players’ demands untenable.

Players said they initiated discussions with Soccer Canada in March, and that the federation gave them ‘an archaic offer’ on June 2.

‘Canada Soccer has been working with the players in good faith to find a path forward that’s fair and equitable to all. We would like to have a facts-based discussion within the fiscal reality that Canada Soccer has to live with every day,’ Bontis countered.

‘Canada Soccer is committed to the principles of fairness and equity and we believe we presented a fair offer to the players. We benchmarked our offer against other national teams from around the world. On the issue of gender equity, raised in the players’ letter, Canada Soccer’s offer also committed to provide the exact same terms to our women’s national team.’

Canada’s women’s team is ranked sixth in the world and won the gold medal last year in the Olympics. The women’s side weighed in on the dispute on Sunday, saying negotiations with the federation have been ongoing since January.

The statement noted that the women do not consider a percentage of World Cup prize money earned by the respective teams as equal pay.

‘The Women’s National Team will not accept an agreement that does not offer equal pay,’ the players said.

Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis (right) said 'we presented a fair offer to the players' and they're also 'committed to provide the exact same terms to our women's national team'

Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis (right) said ‘we presented a fair offer to the players’ and they’re also ‘committed to provide the exact same terms to our women’s national team’

Midfielder Jonathan Osorio, a regular but not in the current squad due to an injury, told The Canadian Press that flights and accommodations have improved since former women’s coach John Herdman became men’s coach in January 2018.

‘I think what the players ask for is fair,’ he 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.’

The US men’s team played to a 0-0 draw with Uruguay on Sunday as it also prepares for the World Cup in Qatar starting in November.

‘They’re trying to say, “Hey, we deserve this because we’ve done something that hasn’t been done and we’re the players that are kind of going to be carrying the torch for this country moving forward”,’ said US defender Walker Zimmerman, a leader of the American men’s union. ‘I don’t know the finer details of it, but that’s certainty a strong stance to get their money.’

Staff at BC Place put away equipment after Sunday's friendly was called off due to the strike

Staff at BC Place put away equipment after Sunday’s friendly was called off due to the strike

Panama were a late opponent replacement for Canada after their original fixture against Iran was canceled following criticism by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Panama were a late opponent replacement for Canada after their original fixture against Iran was canceled following criticism by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Panama was a late replacement after Canada canceled a match against Iran following criticism by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canada are scheduled to play Curacao in Vancouver on Thursday and then at Honduras on June 13, both in the CONCACAF Nations League.

In the World Cup later this year, their Group F journey in Qatar begins Belgium on November 23, before Croatia four days later and then Morocco on December 1.

FIFA did not respond to a request for comment.

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