Canada Men’s Debacle Puts Our Golden Moment at Risk

What a decade it’s been for Canadian Soccer. Olympic medals and world recognition for our Women’s National Team. The greatest international goal scorer of all time in Christine Sinclair. The emergence of global superstars on the men’s side like Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan. Women on the frontline of the biggest pro clubs in the World like Kadeisha Buchanan, Jordyn Huitema, Janine Beckie, Julia Grosso, Jessie Fleming and more. On top of this, we have the emergence of domestic pro leagues in MLS and the CPL, and lower division feeder leagues to develop talent. Add World Cup qualification in 2022 and co-hosting one in 2026, Canada has been on a tremendous ride.

It turns out that ride isn’t free. Because the CSA isn’t ready to recognize that, we’re on the verge of destroying our Golden Generation of Canadian Soccer.

The cancellation of Sunday’s friendly against Panama over World Cup pay is the result of Canada Soccer ignoring the reality of their new found success. The breakdown of the World Cup windfall for qualifying is a normal point of contention for many soccer nations. Players want their fair share for accomplishing something no Canadian team has done in decades. There’s also realistic demands for pay equity for both the Women’s and Men’s sides.

It’s an antiquated idea that in 2022, Sport bodies can just ignore the organized demands of professional players when it comes to compensation and working conditions. Yet, the Canadian Soccer Association have done just that. Since March, they have not sat down to negotiate, or even discuss, the issues that are important to players. When the team walked out of training on Friday, it was only then the CSA cared enough to send representatives to Vancouver. It was a feeble strategy. It failed to recognize the fact that Canada is a fully professional team with players from world class leagues who aren’t willing to be treated second class for their achievements. Canada Soccer needs to catch up to that reality.

That said, the players are not blameless. They have kept these issues behind closed doors for months, never speaking publicly about it. They sprung this strike at the last moment on tens of thousands of unsuspecting fans who paid money for tickets, travel and hotels. That’s real damage to people and lost goodwill. They also told the fans the match was cancelled through a letter. That was a mistake. If they really cared about the fans, this was the time to send out a player or legal representative to explain and defend your decision to help us understand. The players’ failure to do this was unprofessional. 

Even the most contentious labour disputes end with communication and some form of partnership. Canada Soccer and the players need to find that moment now. There’s too much at stake with a league international lined up for Thursday, and the critical announcement of 2026 World Cup cities on June 16. We need an end to these self-inflicted wounds.

In the end, the leverage the players have in this dispute is clear. There’s no World Cup money without the players. There not much of a CSA either without them. They either settle quickly, or Canada’s golden moment starts to disintegrate. No one in soccer wants Canada to return to the wilderness of the World’s game. This is a seminal moment in our history.

– Bill Currie, Editor

Posted in BC Soccer News.