Canadians head home after violence ends women's U-17 soccer tournament
Host Nicaragua beset by deadly protests
Canada coach Bev Priestman was preparing her team for a game Sunday against Costa Rica when CONCACAF pulled the plug on its 2018 Women's Under-17 Championship following violence in Managua, Nicaragua.
The Canadians had blanked Bermuda 3-0 Friday in their first game of the tournament.
"It happened so quickly," Priestman said late Monday from Miami as the Canadian team made its way home from Central America. "One minute you're about to play Costa Rica and then you find out about the tournament being cancelled.
"I do believe they made the right decision," she added. "Safety comes first."
STATEMENT: Canada Soccer's Women's U-17 National Team and Canadian referees have all departed Nicaragua and are safely on their way back to Canada. <a href="https://t.co/nQNnh0KiKx">https://t.co/nQNnh0KiKx</a> <a href="https://t.co/yt4F12XWFy">pic.twitter.com/yt4F12XWFy</a>—@CanadaSoccerEN
Nicaragua has been rocked by a week of protests in which more than two dozen people have been killed. The protests quickly spread nationwide, with scenes of massive rock throwing, burning barricades, tear gas and gunfire.
Dozens of shops were looted in Managua, the Nicaragua capital where the tournament was taking place.
Priestman said the Canadian team had been insulated from the violence, with police escorts on their travels.
"I think that's what surprised us the most," she said. "We were sort of in a bubble. As you can imagine as a football team you're just preparing for your game. You turn up for training, you go home."
The protest movement started when the Sandinista government of President Daniel Ortega issued a decree on April 16 increasing income and payroll taxes and changing pensions to try to shore up Nicaragua's troubled social security system.
The tournament was to have determined the region's qualifiers for the Under-17 World Cup in Uruguay, which starts Nov. 13.
Canada had just played the one game. Mexico and Haiti, playing in the pool, had each won both of their outings to qualify for the semifinals.
"We haven't received any sort of notification other than they'll be meeting as a committee to decide on the next step," Priestman said of CONCACAF.
Canadian tournament officials also left Nicaragua.
With files from The Associated Press