Olympic gold medalist Sophie Schmidt announced on Tuesday that she will be retiring from international soccer after the 2023 World Cup due to what the team has described as unequal treatment from Canada Soccer.
“Following our meeting [with Canada Soccer] on Saturday, I immediately approached Bev [Priestman],” Schmidt told reporters on a press call organized by the Canada Soccer Players Association. “I told her of my intentions to retire from international soccer and I would like to fly home. She asked me to sleep on it.”
After that meeting with Canada Soccer, Canada’s women’s national team players say they were forced to end their work stoppage due to threats of litigation toward the union and the individual players currently in camp preparing for the SheBelieves Cup.
The players had boycotted training on Friday with the intention of also refusing to play games, in protest over unequal treatment compared to the men’s national team and a lack of financial transparency after being told that funding for both the first team and the youth national teams had been cut.
Captain Christine Sinclair described the players being at their “wits end” as they attempt to rectify both short- and long-term issues with only a few months before the World Cup.
“After a long chat with Sincy trying to debrief what has just transpired, she talked me off the ledge so to say, for lack of a better word,” Schmidt said. “She made me promise that I will see this final fight through, that we need to leave this place a better environment moving forward and ensure a sustainable pathway that gives girls an opportunity to be successful and to chase after their dreams.”
While Schmidt is committed to the fight for the future, she said she will not continue with the team after the World Cup. Outside of international soccer, Schmidt signed a two-year extension with the NWSL’s Houston Dash in the offseason.
“My views of the CSA have never been more concerning. I am still rocked to my core by the situations we are currently in,” she said.
The players say that talks of a strike are not over, and if they can’t come to a resolution with Canada Soccer, the team is prepared to refuse to play scheduled friendlies during the next international window in April.
“For me, it’s devastating,” OL Reign and Canada midfielder Quinn said about being forced to return to play. “I think we’ve come to a lot of realizations of the realities that we’re in with our organization, but for us we’ve put everything … [into] playing for our country. And to understand that our organization put us in that position, for me, it was shattering.”
The players emphasized that the entire Canada player pool, which expands beyond the 23 currently in camp for the SheBelieves Cup, is being included in decisions. They are united in pushing for the same resources the Canada men’s national team received during their 2022 World Cup campaign, as well as simple remedies like being paid for services rendered (players say they have not been paid for their work in 2022.)
With support from the men’s team, the women’s national team is also pushing for greater transparency from Canada Soccer about the financial discrepancies that have caused youth national team funding to be slashed despite record revenues in the past calendar year.
Canada’s women’s national team is entering the 2023 World Cup this summer as a top contender after winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. They open the SheBelieves Cup against the United States on Thursday.
“It’s pretty disgusting that we’re having to ask just to be treated equally,” Portland Thorns and Canada defender Janine Beckie said. “It’s a fight that women all over the world have to partake in every single day, but quite frankly we’re really sick of it. And it’s something that now, I don’t even get disappointed by anymore, I just get angry about.
“Because it’s time, it’s 2023, we won the damn Olympic Games. And we’re about to go to the World Cup with a team who could win.”