After the pre-match festivities and pyrotechnics that celebrated the Olympic champions, players from both teams gathered in the center of the pitch before kick-off in a unified demonstration.
“Our voice has a unique weight right now. We want to make the most of it, ”said captain Christine Sinclair.
The Canadian Soccer Players’ Association (CSGA), the organization led by national team players and representing their interests, subsequently released a statement that read, in part:
“We stand in solidarity to recognize the abuse that has occurred in sport across Canada. We stand in solidarity with victims of abuse and to show our commitment to ending this culture of silence and abuse.
As reported by Shireen Ahmed, the players sent a letter to Canada Soccer on Friday night outlining a list of demands, which included an independent investigation into Bob Birarda, the former Vancouver Whitecaps and Under-20 national coach who makes facing nine sex-related charges in British Columbia.
The letter also acknowledges recent allegations made public in the National Women’s Football League regarding coercion and sexual abuse by a former coach.
“Obviously playing in the NWSL… there’s a lot going on in terms of harassment and things like that,” said Sinclair, who plays for the Portland Thorns of the NWSL, where some of the recent allegations have taken place. “As players, we are tired of staying silent. We are tired of being silent.
“We also thank the New Zealand players for joining us. “
Here are the player requests that were sent to Canada Soccer:
We call on Canada Soccer, its Board of Directors, officers and coaching staff to make a public and unequivocal commitment to the Canadian soccer community in order to create a safe environment for our athletes. We also call Soccer Canada [sic] apologize to those who have been victimized and abused while playing the sport they love.
We call on Canada Soccer to launch a transparent and independent investigation into the allegations against Bob Birarda while employed by Canada Soccer at a mutually agreed time in order to fully understand what happened and develop recommendations and best practices to better protect our athletes.
3. A safe sport for all
We call on Canada Soccer to fully implement the Independent Safe Sport Mechanism. We call on the Government of Canada to protect vulnerable athletes by making the Independent Safe Sport Mechanism mandatory for all national sport organizations by the end of 2021.
Canada Soccer also released a statement on Saturday afternoon, saying the organization has agreed to meet the three requirements described by the players.
“Our national team players are role models, and we support and congratulate them on their drive to bring positive change to Canada,” the statement read.
Sinclair added that she would like to see an independent investigation into Birarda made public.
“I think people deserve to hear the results,” she said.
Saturday also marked the formal partnership between CSGA and the Professional Football Association of Canada, a union for the country’s elite soccer players.
In the announcement, both sides said it was “a key step in the journey of Canadian players to strengthen their collective voice in the pursuit of fair and equitable treatment for industry players. growing soccer in the country ”.
Canadian players take a stand
The national team has been at the forefront of several social justice movements. Earlier this year at the SheBelieves Cup, all players wore Black Lives Matter shirts during warm-ups and knelt for the Canadian anthem. They have publicly supported current player Quinn after going transgender last year.
Simply put, this team works on and off the pitch.
Saturday was meant to be a day for them. A day when Canadian fans watched the national team play at home for the first time in more than two years, where they were able to honor their unprecedented Olympic gold medal.
But the players have unanimously chosen to transform this day – their moment – and make it something bigger than them.
This team, which is made up of racialized players as well as members of the LGBTQ + community, recognizes issues that are bigger than them and more important than a friendly game at the end of October.
“We’re just asking for recognition,” goaltender Erin McLeod told TSN on Friday. “I know it’s a winning tour, and I also know how important it is, but we had a vote yesterday on the minute of silence and the demands and it was unanimous. One hundred percent of the team agrees that it is much more important. We have the possibility of a significant change.
“I am so proud of Erin McLeod and the work she has done,” said Sinclair. “She really stepped up to get our team to lead this. “
This team continues to advocate for labor rights, women’s equality and many other social justice issues.
On the last Canada Day, players released a statement supporting Indigenous communities across the country.
“Historically, July 1 has been a day of celebration. This year, we pledge to learn about the history of our country and the indigenous peoples of what we now call Canada, ”part of the release said.
Now, as the players call for action from their own federation, they recognize allegations of abuse within women’s soccer in Canada and the ongoing case against Birarda.
Earlier this week, midfielder Desiree Scott addressed the allegations in the NWSL.
“I think that’s really what it’s about, is protecting the players,” she said. “It’s a big step for people to come forward and really make the changes necessary to make this a league that we can all be proud to play in, where people are protected and feel safe. “