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Dozens of desperate fans traveled around BC Place on Sunday afternoon, some unaware that the World Cup friendly match between Canada and Panama had been called off until they found out the entry gates were closed.
The match was canceled after Canadian players refused to participate in the friendly match. Football Canada confirmed the cancellation shortly after 2pm. The match was scheduled to start at 4 pm
There was no security on hand or anyone to tell fans that the game was down.
Thirteen-year-old Aiden Ayer was to be a football player of the match. He rated his disappointment a nine out of ten.
Planning for the friendly at BC Place has been rocky from the start. Team Canada was originally scheduled to play Iran, but the opponent was shot down after criticism over Iran’s downing of a civilian airliner two years ago that killed 85 Canadians and permanent residents.
Sunday’s match was canceled at the last minute – in which Panama stepped up to replace Iran – due to Canadian players demanding larger cuts in World Cup bonuses.
TSN’s Rick Westhead had previously stated that the NFL was providing about 10 percent of revenue to players, who demand salaries in the 40 percent range.
The players apologized to both the Panamanian team and the Canadians for the decision in an open letter on Sunday. They said they had been trying to negotiate a playing contract with Canada Football Club since March, to no avail.
“We want to work with our organization, but the relationship has been strained for years,” the players said in the message. “Now, Football Canada has disrespected our team and jeopardized our efforts to raise standards and effectively promote the game in Canada.
“We had hoped that qualifying this team would bring a level of respect and financial opportunity that could raise standards and opportunities for the next generation of players in our country and change the course of football in Canada forever.”
Brooks drove Raymond to play with his young son from Abbotsford.
“It’s disgusting no matter what they’ve been through,” Raymond said.
“I understand that you have to fight for what you feel you deserve but you didn’t do that two hours ago.”
Mehdi Darshiri and his friends sat on the stairs at PC Place wondering what they should do in the evening.
“They are going to the World Cup and they need to play as many matches as possible,” Darcheri said. “That’s what they should focus on not on how much money they can make out of this foolish friendly.
“I heard the players went on strike because they didn’t get enough salaries. It’s a national team, half of them are already millionaires, and apart from that, they’re playing in a couple of days. Panama is already here.
“Practice, play your game and then hit. Respect the fans too, Panama.”
George Hernandez traveled to Vancouver from Surrey with his daughter and two friends to watch the game, paying $35 per ticket.
He realized that it was canceled only when he saw the entrance gates closed.
“They should play because they love the game,” he said.
Canada’s soccer chief, Dr. Nick Pontes, said Sunday evening that he was deeply disappointed with the men’s national team’s decision not to play.
“We would first like to apologize to all Canadian football fans and reiterate our gratitude to you and your continued support, and I am sorry that this match did not happen today,” Pontes said.
He said Canada Soccer is working with the players to reach a fair and equitable agreement.
The players did not agree and, just before the match was called off, sent a letter to Canadian football fans outlining their position, which emphasized the desire for transparency and a review of the agreement with Canada Soccer Business.
The men’s team is looking for 40 percent of the prize money and a comprehensive group of friends and family for Qatar.
“We are ready to take a proposal from (the players) and a proposal that we think is fair. That is fair with women, that is 30 percent for men in sharing the World Cup prize money that we have compared with countries around the world, which we think is fair,” Pontes said.
“I admire the players and what they have achieved for this country; we have gone beyond sports in this country. I admire what the women have done, how they have gone beyond sports in this country.
Canada made it to the 2022 World Cup after finishing first in the CONCACAF final qualifiers ahead of Mexico and the United States. It is the first time Canada has qualified for the Men’s World Cup since their only previous appearance in Mexico in 1986, where they lost all three matches and failed to score a single goal.
The cancellation of the match against Panama is the men’s national team’s latest epic in the run-up to the World Cup, which will take place from November 21 to December 18 in Qatar. Canada joined Group F in the 32-team tournament along with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco.
Watch the Canadian Football League press conference, which took place on Sunday afternoon, here:
Here is the full open letter from the players:
— With files from Patrick Johnston and Derek Van Dyest, Postmedia News
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