Canada-Panama match canceled amid escalating dispute over World Cup rewards

Team Canada’s interim general secretary, Earl Cochran, looked at a sparsely populated ballroom in the grounds of BC Place in Vancouver and tried to sum up the past two weeks for the National League.

“What I think he’s saying to the international community is that we have an incredible ability to beat our own weight in everything we do,” he noted.

everything? Not if everything involves one successful friendly regulation. It was 5.15pm, by which time Canada was supposed to be in the second half of their World Cup prep with Panama, which itself was a hastily arranged encounter after the Federation had originally booked Iran and set off a firestorm. But the towering BC place was deathly silent.

John Herdman’s team, who bridged the 36-year gap to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar and set fire to the team’s intriguing wildfire, has taken a protest against his board of directors to the extreme. After initially refusing to train on Friday and Saturday, on Sunday they refused to play the same game. Canada Football Club managed to lose not one but two friendlies in less than a week and much more. Millions of dollars in ticket revenue, oceans of goodwill and positivity that Alphonso Davies and his colleagues have brought to the sport are here. Entire.

A statement from the players two hours before kick-off made it clear that the standoff over World Cup rewards had now turned into something much bigger. They criticized the federation, saying: “Canadian football has disrespected our team and jeopardized our efforts to raise standards and effectively improve the game in Canada.” They made five important demands that included the Qatar 2022 payments, but they also aimed to reshape the way the game is played here.

As horrified fans strolled outside the stadium in Vancouver, dozens in Davis’ No. 19 jerseys, some took in the players’ lengthy statement and lamented that the team that became the second Canadian men’s team to qualify for the World Cup is now forced. Perhaps to prove why success was such a rare feeling here. Canada Soccer, an association whose dysfunction has been a frequent visitor, doesn’t seem nearly ready to face this moment.

Cochran’s grotesque bragging wasn’t the only head itching moment at a belated press conference as he was joined by Football Canada president Nick Pontes. The duo offered plenty of serious generalities and apologies to fans but few concrete details, and as a result, there wasn’t much promise that this latest mess would be over anytime soon.

canada football
Football Canada President Nick Pontes, right, speaks as interim general secretary Earl Cochrane listens during a news conference in Vancouver on Sunday. Photo: Daryl Dick/AFP

The players’ demands called for changes to Canada’s football leadership, a fair pay and bonus structure with the country’s women’s team, a 40% discount on Qatar’s prize money, better tournament privileges and, most importantly, called for clarification on the 2019 agreement the league had with an entity called Canada. Soccer Business, closely related to the country’s emerging domestic competition, the Canadian Premier League. The 10-year agreement guarantees CSB to Canada Soccer with an annual return of $3 million, but CSB can take advantage of the men’s and women’s national teams by handling all sponsorship and broadcast deals. In these unprecedented times of success and interest in the game here, the deal looks particularly flawed.

“We want to know who signed this deal that restricted our union,” the player said in a statement. “Why did Canada Football give up the independence of the biggest opportunity to grow our program in years?”

Pontes defended the CSB agreement and said it was “pivotal” to the development of the game here. He also claimed that the men’s demands regarding the finances of the World Cup were “untenable”.

“If we as a federation had the men’s team and the women’s team only to take care of it and nothing else…we still couldn’t stand this proposal,” he said, referring to programs such as futsal, semi-sports, underage teams and referees. But that immediately raised the question of why World Cup revenues would be needed to find such areas. If Herdman’s side had failed to qualify, would those programs have ended?

There were a few answers from the couple but each asked more questions. Most urgent, of course, is what’s next? Curacao is the literal answer. The junior team is scheduled to host Vancouver on Thursday for the CONCACAF Nations League tournament. Whether they’re going to get a game or, like Panama, they’ll fly all the way to a special training session at BC Place.

The leadership went straight to the team hotel and said they were ready to talk to the players again. But looking at how the initial conversations went, things didn’t look good. A source told the Toronto Star that Pontes got on his knees and begged the players to take the Canada Soccer deal before the Panama game.

To add another layer, the country’s women’s team later released a statement that took a more positive tone toward Canada’s latest showing of Soccer while also appearing to disagree with the men’s statement about fair pay. All this on the back of the NFL reaching a groundbreaking deal with its men’s and women’s national teams.

What is clear is that time is neither on the Society’s side nor on Herdmann’s side. Prior to Friday, the England player had only had 16 days of training and a few games with his squad before facing Belgium, Croatia and Morocco in Qatar. They lost two training sessions and their most important game in this window. With Canada football hesitating and poor crying over its complicated finances, the manager is left calculating the cost.

2022-06-06 13:42:00

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