Two planned training sessions in Vancouver for Canada’s men’s soccer team have been scrapped amid ongoing discussions about player compensation.
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.
A session planned for Saturday was also cancelled.
“Canada Soccer are currently in discussions with their national team players pertaining to fair and equitable player compensation ahead of the FIFA World Cup period,” the association. said in a statement late Saturday night.
The team is in Vancouver ahead of a friendly match against Panama set for Sunday. Canada is also scheduled to host Curaçao in CONCACAF Nations League play on June 9.
TSN has reported that players refused to participate in Friday’s training because of a contract dispute that involves, in part, how much the athletes will get for playing in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
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 on the eve of the international break.
“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 their flights and accommodations 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.”
The athletes and Canada Soccer are also reportedly discussing whether the association will help the players get their loved ones to Qatar.
Osorio believes they will get some assistance but said details have not been agreed upon.
“I don’t think they can take care of everybody’s extended family,” he said. “I think everybody’s immediate family will be taken care of. And after that, if the players want to take care of other people, I think the federation will also help with that, I just don’t know how much.”
Canada Soccer’s president, Nick Bontis, and its interim general secretary were set to land in Vancouver on Saturday afternoon. A spokesperson for the association said their trip was planned before Friday’s training was cancelled.
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 in 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 the 38th-ranked Canadians in the current international window.
No. 61 Panama wasn’t initially on Canada’s schedule for this window. Instead, 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 cancelled the game on May 26 and Panama was named as the replacement opponent on May 31.
After hosting No. 79 Curaçao at B.C. 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.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press