Canadian women's soccer team threatens boycott
The Canadian women's soccer team is on the verge of mutiny.
The women say they won't play another international match until the Canadian Soccer Association brings coach Carolina Morace back into the fold.
Morace announced last week that she will leave after this summer's World Cup, citing differences with the governing body of Canadian soccer.
"She's changed our program, she's changed our team," captain Christine Sinclair told The Canadian Press. "We can compete now with the world's best. And it's something we haven't been able to do in the past. And now to have this coach threaten to leave, we can't let her just go."
"We have a shot at something great," she added. "And we have the coach to allow us to do that. It's hard as players to see our organization not really support us, not really support our coach. It's a difficult position to be in."
The 25 Canadian women have also retained legal counsel over their unhappiness at what they call the ad-hoc compensation that has been offered in recent years by the CSA.
The women say they will train, but won't play international matches until the coaching issue is resolved. The decision was unanimous, according to Sinclair.
They plan to board a plane Friday for a training camp in Rome with Morace but say they will refuse to play in the Cyprus Cup tournament, which starts Feb. 28, until the coaching issue is resolved.
"Ideally we go to Rome and then we go to Cyprus and we play the games," said Sinclair. "But we can't let this go on any longer and we feel like it's our time to make a stand."
A CSA spokesman said the association had reached out to Morace in the hope of speaking to her.
The impasse comes at the worst possible time. The CSA is in the midst of bidding to host the 2015 Women's World Cup.
Under Morace, Canada has risen to ninth in the world. Morace's coaching record with the national team is 19-8-5, which included a record 11-game unbeaten streak.
"This was not a decision taken lightly, knowing that this is probably our best chance at a World Cup medal," Sinclair said of the potential boycott. "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.
"This is something that needs to be fixed and we're in a position to do that."
The 27-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., made her senior debut for Canada in 2002. Today Sinclair is ranked among the world's elite female players but, like other Canadian women, has decided to forgo playing overseas this season to focus on the national team.
Morace has declined comment on her exact reasons for leaving other than to say in a statement Friday: "The Canadian Soccer Association has a strategy to achieve their goals that differs from my strategy."
Sinclair said Morace had advised the team that she was considering resignation but the players didn't know if or when it might happen.
"Obviously she has her own issues with the CSA that we as players don't know too much of," Sinclair said.
"As players, this is more or less our fight to get compensation, to have support for the women's program, to show our support for Carolina. We are behind her 100 per cent."
The players know the risks of missing out on matches in advance of the World Cup, said veteran midfielder Carmelina Moscato.
"For us to even be willing to give up games that are so crucial to our preparation -- to fight this fight -- hopefully exemplifies the seriousness of what we're trying to do here," said Moscato, who has won 44 caps for Canada.
The players want a long-term compensation deal with the Canadian Soccer Association, to provide some form of stability and certainty.
If they don't get it, they say they will take the matter to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada for arbitration.
"It's something we've been fighting for for a long time and it's got to a point where it can't go on any longer," Sinclair said.
The women currently only get paid for such major events as the World Cup, World Cup qualifying and Olympic qualifying.
The team did not get paid for the 2008 Olympics and would not have been compensated for the World Cup qualifying tournament had it failed to make the World Cup.
"As national team players, we're just searching for something a little bit more stable, something a little more guaranteed," said Sinclair.
The women currently get some $1,500 a month from Sport Canada.
Currently the players negotiate compensation with the CSA at the events in questions. But Sinclair says the association tends to drag talks out into the competition itself.
"So we'll be in the middle of a qualifying tournament and still worrying about compensation issues. And then usually it gets to a point where they come back with a number and we're forced to accept it."
Through their lawyer, the women have asked the CSA for a copy of the association's compensation deal with the national men's team.
"That the CSA will not give us those numbers, it's hard to accept," said Sinclair, who has scored 115 goals in 151 matches for Canada.
A Jan. 13 letter from the players' lawyer to the CSA details how the team's request for a multi-year compensation package dates back to February 2009.
"The CSA's failure to address the concerns of the women's team is entirely unacceptable," says the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.
The letter gave the CSA a Feb. 11 deadline to finalize a compensation agreement or enter into "meaningful and timely negotiations."
Failing that "we have been instructed to pursue all available avenues to resolve this issue."
Arbitration is the likely route to resolve the financial issues in that case.
Bottom line, the women want to be paid per game like the men.
And they want Morace to stay on.
"We've seen the growth that we've had over the past couple of seasons," Sinclair said. "We truly believe that we have a great shot at getting on the podium in Germany (at the World Cup) and then London in the (2012) Olympics. But we need her as a coach to do that."
Added Sinclair: "It's shame that it's come to this point."