Members of Canada's women's soccer team wanted to garner the attention of the Canadian Soccer Association earlier this month when it threatened to boycott in support of their embattled coach.
The players have officially ended their revolt because they feel Canadian soccer's governing body has made genuine efforts to address the issues with Carolina Morace, the team's coach who previously said she planned to quit after this summer's World Cup in Germany.
"I'd say right now progress is being made," team captain Christine Sinclair told CBCSports.ca on Friday. "The CSA has shown signs of supporting Carolina and thus supporting the team. We don't believe the issue is completely resolved but at this point this is the most hope we've had.
"Both sides continue to be in discussions and all along that's all we've asked for: that talks take place so [Carolina] can remain our coach beyond the World Cup this summer."
CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli is pleased that the players ended the boycott before missing any games, including the upcoming Cyprus Cup tournament.
"We're excited that they'll be concentrating on competing at the Cyprus Cup, which is what we've all wanted," Montopoli stated.
Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod explained the fact that Montopoli flew to Rome last week and put a proposal directly to Morace contributed to their decision to end the boycott.
"That was the biggest thing for us; the CSA showing they are willing to work with Carolina," McLeod said.
Montopoli indicated more talks are not currently scheduled but that the two sides will engage in further discussions.
"I went to Rome and met with Carolina and started a dialogue. I believe that progress is being made and we're looking to have ongoing talks. I'm optimistic that we'll come to a resolution," Montopoli said.
Morace, who took over the coaching reins in early 2009, submitted her resignation letter on Feb. 4. The 47-year-old native of Venice cited differences with the CSA over the long-term strategy of the women's program. As a result, the players voted unanimously to go on strike, vowing not to play an international game until the issue with Morace was resolved.
The women will play an exhibition match Saturday against South Korea in preparation for next week's Cyprus Cup.
Team would have followed through with boycott: Sinclair
From the outside, the timing of the end of the boycott seems dubious with the South Korea game looming — that the women essentially caved when the first opportunity presented itself to show the strength of their convictions.
But Sinclair maintains the team would have followed through with the boycott.
"It took the CSA this long to step up, and it took this long to make progress. If this would've happened a week ago, we would've ended it then, but it didn't," said Sinclair, the team's all-time leader in appearances (151) and goals (115).
Morace didn't offer any specifics in her resignation letter, but sources close to the Italian told CBCSports.ca that she wants greater control of how the team's budget is spent and of the overall direction of the women's program.
Montopoli confirmed he is now aware of Morace's concerns after meeting with her, but wouldn't reveal the substance of the Italian's issues.
"In the spirit of the dialogue we are having, I would prefer not to address that subject at the moment," Montopoli deferred.
While the players are encouraged over the Morace situation, they remain somewhat pessimistic about the ongoing pay dispute with the CSA.
The 25 members of the women's team have retained legal counsel who is prepared to file an arbitration suit next week against the CSA with the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre.
The women contend that the Canadian men's team has a fixed-term arrangement with the CSA under which they are paid on a per game basis. The women say they want a similar deal, instead of receiving what they call ad-hoc payments from the CSA.
The women are seeking a long-term contract, but a sticking point in the negotiations is how to calculate the money they should receive.
Jim Bunting, the lawyer representing the women has made several requests that the CSA provide documentation of the agreement the organization has with the men's team. He wants that information so he can consider any compensation offer put forth for the women, but thus far the CSA has not provided him with the documents.
"We feel like [the CSA has been] dragging their feet and I feel like they have a tendency to do that and it's been very frustrating," McLeod stated.
Montopoli said progress has been made on the pay dispute, but declined to give details.
Canada's opening game of the World Cup is June 26 against Germany in Berlin, but the women maintain a prolonged fight with the CSA won't hamper their preparation or performance in the tournament.
"We hope it doesn't drag out but we've been fighting this battle for many years and a couple more months, that's nothing to us really," stated Sinclair.
"We've been fighting this battle for so long and it hasn't hurt us in the past. We've always done a good job of knowing the issue we were fighting for, but once we stepped onto the field, we understood we were representing Canada and we kept our issues in the background."
Sinclair said reaching an agreement with the CSA over a long-term contract that includes a set pay structure is essential for the future health of the women's program.
"That's why we're searching for a long-term deal, so that when these major tournaments come, we're not having this battle and we can just focus on soccer," said Sinclair. "In the past, we've negotiated with the CSA about compensation while tournaments are going on, and that just can't happen anymore."
Sinclair added: "We just want a deal that gives players more stability. That's something that the men's team has and that's all we're searching for."