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Canada's players could refuse to play in SheBelieves Cup after going on strike

The Canada women's soccer team will go on strike with immediate effect because of pay equity concerns and budget cuts by the country's soccer association, captain Christine Sinclair said on Friday, less than a week before the SheBelieves Cup.

Canada, the reigning Olympic champions, are to face the United States in their first game of the SheBelieves Cup, which begins on Feb. 16, with Brazil and Japan also participating.

But team players said in a statement that governing body Canada Soccer had cut training camp days, full camp windows and the number of players and staff invited into camps, besides curbing funding for youth teams.

The team's preparation for the World Cup, scheduled for July 20 to Aug. 20 in Australia and New Zealand, is "being compromised by Canada Soccer's continued inability" to support national teams, it added.

Players trained on Friday in jerseys worn inside out to protest against working conditions ahead of the SheBelieves Cup, Sinclair said.

"As a team, we've decided to take job action and from this moment on will not be participating in any Canadian Soccer Association activities until this is resolved," Sinclair told broadcaster TSN, adding that the body had yet to respond to team demands.

In a later statement, however, Canada Soccer said it would meet the women's team players in Orlando on Saturday for further talks, along with its legal counsel.

Canada Soccer has a "proven track record" of supporting the women's game, it added.

"Pay equity for our women's national team is at the core of our ongoing player negotiations. Canada Soccer will not agree to any deal without it," it said.

"We presented an equity-based proposal to our national teams and their counsel several months ago and we are still waiting for a definitive response to the terms of that proposal."

Sinclair's fellow international teammate, Janine Beckie, said, "Saying that we're outraged is an understatement."

She added, "There's not really words to describe how it feels to be here in camp with the national team and know we are not being given the same resources that our men's team was given last year to prepare for their World Cup."

For their part, the men's national team offered support to the women's team, saying they were "deeply disappointed" by the actions of Canada Soccer.

"Canada Soccer is claiming it does not have the funds necessary to provide the women's national team players the working conditions and games they need to prepare for the 2023 Women's World Cup," they said in a statement.

"That is outrageous and calls for an immediate and urgent response."

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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