The Canadian Men’s National Team head into their Concacaf Nations League opener against Curaçao on Thursday against the backdrop of ongoing labor disputes between the players and the federation.
On Sunday, the CanMNT refused to play a friendly against Panama, explaining their decision via a letter titled ‘Dear Canada’ in which they outlined concerns over their share of World Cup prize money, broadcast and sponsorship contracts relating to the World Cup and equal pay issues alongside the Women’s National Team.
Canada will take to the field again to face Curaçao on Thursday and ahead of that match, team captain and veteran midfielder Atiba Hutchinson has sought to clarify the position of the players.
“At the moment, as a team, we’re just looking for transparency,” he told reporters “We’ve been working on getting legal representation, so that’s where we’re at on that front. That’s what we’re looking to do. So from here, we’ll leave that with the representatives.”
While Hutchinson and the players feel there’s still a long way to go in terms of getting that ‘transparency’ from the federation, Canada Soccer’s acting general secretary Earl Cochrane struck a very different tone, believing the two sides have enjoyed a ‘great couple of days’ in terms of progress.
“The last couple of days have been positive, perhaps even more than positive,” Cochrane stated. “The fact that the guys were back on the field the day after, we’ve met a few times. They’ve been great. They’ve been really, really good. They’ve been asking questions, answering questions. It’s just been a great couple of days.”
For the CanMNT, this is the first time they’ve had to prepare for a World Cup campaign since 1986 and only the second time in their history.
But the clock is ticking. There’s now less than six months to go until the Canucks begin against Belgium on November 23, making every training session and every game important as John Herdman seeks to ready his team.
In that context, missing out on minutes against Panama was damaging. But Herdman is confident he’s experienced enough disruptions over the past few years to deal with one more canceled friendly and feels Thursday’s match against Curaçao will be challenging enough in its own right.
“We just got to adapt. I went a year without even playing. Every window seemed to get canceled,” Herdman said, adding: “I think this is a good test. We’ve seen what they did in Honduras, and I think these boys will be tested.”
Now 39 years old, Hutchinson is well aware this will be his one chance to represent his country at the World Cup. The Besiktas midfielder is conscious of just how few games are left before that Belgium clash, so every single second together counts for the CanMNT.
“We don’t have that much time before the World Cup comes around,” he said. “So every session is important for us. Obviously [Herdman] wants us on the pitch and working on everything in detail … But we’ve had a couple of training sessions to prepare for this game tomorrow and that’s our mindset right now, just to do as best as we can.”
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