Canada’s friendly international with Panama was cancelled just hours before kick-off on Sunday after players went on strike over a proposed new labor deal.
A brief statement on Twitter from Canada Soccer confirmed that the game, due to be held at BC Place in Vancouver, had been scrapped.
No reason for the cancellation was given by Canada Soccer but a statement released by the men’s national team said the move came after players rejected a contract offer presented to the squad last Thursday.
The statement said talks between Canada Soccer and the national team, which this year qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, had been ongoing since March.
However, the squad said Canada Soccer had “unnecessarily prolonged” negotiations before making an initial offer on Thursday.
“Canada Soccer waited until the evening of June 2nd to present an archaic offer and the general secretary and president of the association only made themselves available for the first time to connect with the players on June 4 at 4pm,” the player statement said.
“For these reasons, we have reluctantly decided not to play our match today against Panama. It’s time we take a stand for the future of soccer in Canada.”
The players statement criticised a deal signed by Canada Soccer and commercial partner Canadian Soccer Business in 2018, demanding the terms of the contract be made public.
Players also called for an “equitable structure with our women’s national team” that shares the same player match fees, percentage of prize money at FIFA World Cups and the development of a women’s domestic league.
The statement concluded with an apology to fans over the sudden cancellation.
“We want to apologise to our fans. Playing at home with your support is everything to us,” the statement read.
The statement said players hoped to have resolved the dispute by the time Canada is scheduled to play Curacao in the CONCACAF Nations League on Thursday.
The dispute is the latest turbulent episode to rock Canadian soccer in recent weeks.
Panama were only drafted in as last minute opponents for Sunday’s friendly after an initial fixture with fellow World Cup qualifiers Iran was cancelled.
That game was cancelled after a backlash against the decision to schedule the match led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau called the game a “bad idea” while the fixture was also criticised by families of passengers killed when Iranian armed forces shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 after take-off from Tehran on January 8 2020.
Eighty-five Canadian citizens and permanent residents were among the 176 people who perished in the tragedy, which the Iranian armed forces later described as a mistake.