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Canada women's coach 'proud' of team over pay dispute

Canada women's coach 'proud' of team over pay dispute

February 15, 2023 (AFP)

Canada women's team coach Bev Priestman says she is proud of her players taking a stance over equal pay and conditions but hopes the "draining" dispute with the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) is resolved quickly.

The team have abandoned their plans to boycott the SheBelieves Cup this week and will take the field against the United States in Orlando on Thursday as four nations begin their preparations for July's women's World Cup.

The clash between the Canadian Olympic champions and the defending World Cup holders, the United States, is the highlight of the invitational tournament which kicks off with Japan up against Brazil, also on Thursday.

The tournament was thrown into doubt though on Friday when the Canada team announced they were going on strike over pay, funding and contractual issues with the CSA demanding equality with the men's team.

However, a day later the players said they had been told that any strike action would be unlawful and they faced potential financial penalties if they refused to play.

The team's English coach Bev Priestman said she hopes the dispute is resolved promptly to allow her and the players to focus on the build-up to the World Cup.

"Obviously it's challenging, it's difficult. But what I will say is I'm incredibly proud and honoured to represent the group of players I have in front of me," Priestman told reporters.

"They're not just fighting for themselves in the next six months, it is to make sure that the next generation of players to come through, have the same opportunity to represent themselves and perform at the highest level just like their (male) counterparts," she added.

But Priestman said she wanted to be able to focus soon on the preparations for the World Cup where Canada are among the favourites to challenge the U.S. for the title.

- Emotionally drained - 

"Naturally, I want this resolved as quickly as we can. I know that's what the CSA want and I know that's what the players want. Why? Because I think you can imagine it's supposed to be the most exciting year of their careers and to start the year like this isn't great.

"You lose training sessions, you have players emotionally drained, you know, it's been draining and emotional for myself too just trying to navigate the difficult circumstances that I'm in," she added.

The United States women team, whose own long-running legal fight for equal pay with the men's team was settled last year, with a landmark agreement, will be looking to the tournament to kick-start their bid to retain their World Cup title.

U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said he was supportive of the Canadian team but was glad his side now have top class opponents to face.

"We know what the situation is and we genuinely hope that they resolve their problems. We were able to do it on our side and we're in support of them resolving the problem on their side," he said.

"We're very happy that we were able to secure really good opponents. All three opponents are World Cup and world class opponents," he said.

Andonovski is hoping that the different style of play that will be offered by Japan and Brazil, along with the Canadians, will provide some lessons for his team.

"We expect to see a little bit of a different type or style of play from each one of them that will challenge us in different ways," he said.

"But also help us prepare or maybe even expose some of the weaknesses facing some of these different styles of play. It is a great opportunity for us to prepare for the World Cup."

The Women's World Cup will be held in Australia and New Zealand, from July 20 to August 20. 

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