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Potential Canada boycott has short- and long-term implications

The situation in Canada continues to grow more serious as the Canadian Women’s National Team demands better compensation and the retention of Head Coach Carolina Morace.

The Canadian Press highlights some of the bigger issues at hand for the Canadian Soccer Association, which has faced a whirlwind of media attention in the past week.  The issue was highlighted by Morace’s announcement on Friday that she would not return as head coach following the Women’s World Cup, citing differences with the CSA regarding the direction of the program.  In the article, veteran forward Christine Sinclair talks about fighting for the bigger picture, which includes fair treatment for future women’s national team players.

“This was not a decision taken lightly, knowing that this is probably our best chance at a World Cup medal,” Sinclair told the Canadian Press.  “And knowing that we are potentially giving up camps and games. But there’s a bigger picture here.

“I’ve been playing on the national team for 10 years and nothing’s changed.  In fact things have probably gone backwards in terms of the CSA’s dealing with the women’s team.  And I feel I’m in a position in my career and a position on the national team where you’re fighting for the bigger picture, you’re fighting for future national team players, the young ones on the team, the young kids that are playing soccer now throughout Canada.”

In case it is not obvious, she – and the entire Canadian Women’s National Team – is serious.  The Cyprus Cup begins Feb. 28 and although Canada will continue to train, it seems unlikely at this juncture that the No. 9 ranked team in the world will play in the annual competition.  That will not happen unless the Canadian Soccer Association shows a commitment to sitting down with the players and agreeing upon a new system of compensation and an overall commitment to the women’s program.  Per player requests, the CSA is also tasked with retaining Morace, who has brought Canada unprecedented success since February 2009.

At stake in the situation is obviously both the short- and long-term future of Canada’s women’s soccer program.  In the short-term, there is Women’s World Cup preparation.  The competition is now just over four months away and reducing preparation for it (by cutting international matches) could prove costly for a Canada team riding the high of a CONCACAF crown and looking like serious contenders (all be it in in Group A, ‘The Group of Death,’ which also features Germany, France and Nigeria).

It is far too early to speculate about Canada actually not participating in the 2011 Women’s World Cup, but if the CSA has any brains, it will squash that potential problem before it comes anywhere close to being reality.  That would be a massive on-field blow for Canada as well as a huge problem in the politics of FIFA.  Don’t forget: Canada is the odds-on favorite to win the bid for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.  By 2015, the competition could be a homecoming of sorts for what would be a top team in the world looking to claim a World Cup on its home turf in a similar way the U.S. did in 1999 (with admittedly abnormally large crowds for a Women’s World Cup) or the way Germany will try to do this summer.  The politics of FIFA do not just stop there, though.  Any future Canadian requests to FIFA would suffer from the long-lasting memory of a team skipping out on a Women’s World Cup.  Again, it’s far too early to be considering that right now, but the CSA knows the implications such a situation could have.

Even the threat of Canada not participating in international matches until the situation is resolved will be looked upon poorly by FIFA.  The players are well within their rights to look for more compensation than the reported $1,500 Canadian per month, particularly as the planet’s No. 9 team in a World Cup year.  To hear that they were never paid for the 2008 Olympics and would not have been paid for this fall’s qualifying tournament had they missed the World Cup (highly unlikely, but still) is eye-opening.  The pressure is on the CSA to sort out the situation, which will greatly impact Canada’s relations with FIFA.  The site of the 2015 Women’s World Cup will be chosen in early March and it will be awarded to either Canada or Zimbabwe, a country optimistic about the bid.

There is a clear infrastructure advantage for Canada, but this situation could deal a big blow to that bid.  More importantly, in standing up for what they believe will help the future of women’s soccer in Canada, a great crop of talent could be sidelined.  Granted, that would be by choice, but to not see them properly prepare for the Women’s World Cup would be a shame, all be it an understandable one.


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