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2023 Women's World Cup

Playing under protest: Canadian women demand equality with men’s team

The CanWNT will play in the SheBelieves Cup, but a work stoppage in April is on the table

Photo Copyright Canada Soccer by Daniela Porcelli.

Canada’s women’s national team will be playing under protest at the 2023 SheBelieves Cup this week. Moving forward, the national team is committed to staying off the pitch during the April FIFA window if their demands are not properly addressed by the Canadian Soccer Association. 

The two sides have been in a contentious battle as the women’s team faces fundamental issues that have yet to be addressed by the Canadian Soccer Association, including what players say is inferior staffing and resources compared to the men’s game, and withheld pay for all of 2022. 

On Tuesday, Janine Beckie, Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt, and Quinn spoke to the media for nearly an hour and discussed the challenges they’re facing ahead of the 2023 World Cup. They feel the choice to play has been taken out of their hands after Canada threatened players with legal action last week if they did not participate in the SheBelieves Cup. With tensions at an all-time high, an impasse looms.

“There’s a FIFA window coming up in April,” Sinclair said. “We have said that if things are not just addressed, if things aren’t fixed, we will not be going to that camp. This is obviously like a short term solution. Like we’ve all said, we’ll be playing these games in protest. Obviously the next FIFA window that won’t be the case.”

The relationship between the Canadian Soccer Association and the women’s national team has slowly been boiling to the point where an eruption was inevitable. 

The men’s team played its first World Cup in 36 years in 2022, putting the spotlight on the men’s program – and the treatment the team received. The women’s team, in comparison, earned medals at the past three Olympics, including a historic gold in 2021. 

“For the longest time as women we’ve been fighting blindly,” Sinclair said. “Not knowing what our federation was capable of in a way, in terms of support. All of us were witness to the support our men’s team received from our association as they prepared for the World Cup last year. Janine was on the ground at the World Cup and saw first hand the standards that they experienced. We know it’s possible and we’re just demanding the same.”

The Canadian Soccer Players Association (CSPA) wants the same number of support staff that the men’s team was able to have in Qatar at the World Cup. The PA also wants larger camp rosters to properly train 11-v-11, and players want a better future, too. Youth national teams should have programming at least three times each year, Beckie said; only one camp is on the schedule this year.

The men’s team did not face cuts ahead of their World Cup, which begs the question: why is the women’s team?

“I was on the ground in Doha,” Beckie said. “I was pretty blown away by just the pure number of staff that the men’s team had. I know that every time we come into camp there’s probably just close to half as many as they had. I understand that World Cups and major tournaments require extra staff. If that’s the case with the men’s team then we expect every staff that Bev requests to have at our World Cup.”

The CSPA continues to ask what’s happening to the money Canada Soccer is bringing in from sponsors. They’ve asked to see what’s coming in and where it’s going, but have yet to be provided with concrete answers that explain Canada Soccer’s deal with Canadian Soccer Business, the “sports enterprise representing commercial assets and inventory for marquee soccer properties in Canada.” 

“Where is the money? Schmidt asked. “I’m angry, I’m frustrated, appalled and heartbroken to know that decisions are being made and have been made that bet against our national teams being successful in both the men’s and women’s side is absolutely devastating.” 

Following the players meeting with the CSA on Saturday, Schmidt was frustrated and on the verge of announcing her retirement. She was planning to fly back home, but head coach Bev Priestman asked her to sleep on that decision and, after further discussion with Sinclair, Schmidt decided to stay on – for now. Schmidt announced on Tuesday that she will retire after the World Cup. 


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