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National Womens Team in Turmoil!

TheRob

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Players suspended, accusations fly against national women's soccer team

(CP) - On the eve of World Cup qualifying, the Canadian women's soccer team is in turmoil with captain Charmaine Hooper and two other veteran players threatening a lawsuit over being axed from the squad.
The Canadian Soccer Association says Hooper, defender Sharolta Nonen and forward Christine Latham were suspended for failing to play in a pair of exhibition games against China in August.

The players maintain they are being punished for not committing soon enough to a residency program, funded by Greg Kerfoot, the millionaire owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps. The residency program would see national team players in Vancouver while training for next summer's World Cup and possibly the 2008 Olympics.

The three players believe the program pressures women to play for the Whitecaps' women's team, a charge the Canadian Soccer Association denies.

"It was strongly suggested you move to Vancouver," Hooper said in a telephone interview from her Chicago home.

"We have never done that," countered national team coach Even Pellerud.

Pellerud said the requirement for the program is only that players be in Vancouver while camps are taking place.

All three players are based in the U.S. and play for other W-League teams. Hooper played for the New Jersey Wildcats last season while Latham and Nonen are members of the Atlanta Silverbacks.

"If you are in Vancouver, you are going to be playing for the Whitecaps," Hooper said.

Kevan Pipe, chief operating officer of the Canadian Soccer Association, says receiving money from the fund was never contingent on playing with the Whitecaps.

"There are no strings attached," Pipe said from Ottawa.

"There is no pressure for any of these players to play for the Vancouver Whitecaps."

But commuting to Vancouver would make playing for another team more difficult and costly.

A Canadian Press call to Kerfoot was returned by Bob Lenarduzzi, director of soccer operations for the Whitecaps.

Lenarduzzi said Kerfoot's interest in the national team does not interfere with his ownership of the Whitecaps.

"They are totally independent," said Lenarduzzi. "The two are totally separate."

The Kerfoot program, which the Canadian Soccer Association has not made public, pays $20,000 a year each to 20 national team players. The money is above what the players receive from Sport Canada as carded athletes.

Pellerud said the players were suspended for failing to appear for a pair of national team games against China in St. John's, N.L., in August.

"They let the team down," Pellerud said.

Pipe said the women were not removed from the fund until their suspension for failing to play against China.

The women argue they were removed from the fund first, which resulted in them refusing to play the China games, which led to the suspension.

Hooper and Latham say they didn't play in the China games because they received e-mails from the national team manager Les Meszaros saying they would no longer get money from the program financed by Kerfoot. The e-mail came after the players had asked for more details concerning a two-month World Cup training camp to be held in Vancouver. They wanted to know where they would be staying and who would cover expenses.

An Aug. 9 e-mail sent to the rest of the national team says Hooper and Latham had been cut from the funding program.

"Unfortunately two players, Hooper and Latham, have failed to commit to this program within time limits," says the e-mail. "At this point, their lack of full commitment to the residency has resulted in their release from the full-time program."

Nonen had committed to attend the training camp. But when she learned Hooper and Latham had been removed from the funding program, she decided to support them by not playing in the games against China.

All three players were on the original roster announced for the Aug. 19 and 22 China games.

Hooper, Latham and Nonen have a combined 243 caps and 87 goals for Canada. Hooper has scored 71 goals in 131 appearances.

Other national team members are reluctant to talk on the record about the situation, but there appears to be anger on the squad about the three opting not to play in the China series.

Residential programs are not uncommon for national team programs. The Canadian women's hockey team congregates in Calgary before major tournaments and U.S. Soccer has several of its youth team based in the same city.

The CSA never publicly announced Kerfoot's donation.

"He is a very private man," said Pipe. "We wanted to announce it."

Kerfoot is notorious for avoiding the spotlight, opting not to appear before the media when he bought the Whitecaps franchise.

Pellerud said no decision has been made on whether the three will be allowed to return to the team.

"The team decision at the moment is that although the door is not completely closed, it's closed for now," Pellerud said.

Canada opens its World Cup qualifying with a game Nov. 22 in Carson, Calif.

Hooper, who has played more international games and scored more goals than any other Canadian woman, said she will not play for Canada as long as Pellerud remains coach.

"Not for him," she said. "If he is still there for the next three years, then probably not."

In a letter sent to Pellerud, the lawyer representing the players called the suspension and resulting loss of funding an "unlawful, unilateral release."

"In the event we are not able to resolve my clients' concerns in a timely manner, their options are to proceed with all avenues that are lawfully available to them including . . . initiating a lawsuit with full rights of examination and disclosure," wrote Calgary lawyer Alan J. Ross.

The letter questions Kerfoot's funding program and refers to the fact that Pellerud rents a house from Kerfoot.

"There certainly is no law against a private fund established to assist the national team," Ross wrote. "However, when the source of those funds comes from the owner of another soccer team and that owner has the capacity to influence your behaviour in respect of the national team, whether by virtue of conditions attached to the donation of the money and/or for example as a result of your residing in a home owned by the owner, I suggest that a conflict of interest arises."

Pellerud said he pays rent to Kerfoot for the Vancouver home he lives in.

Pipe said he sees no conflict of interest with a W-League franchise owner helping finance the national team.

Hooper has long been the face of women's soccer in Canada but she has also been a vocal critic of the Canadian Soccer Association at times.

In 1999, the association branded her a "disruptive entity" in stripping her and other players of their carding funding. Hooper had lambasted the association for its World Cup preparation and said she would no longer play for coach Neil Turnbull.

Hooper eventually got her carding back and Turnbull moved on.

Pellerud, who won the World Cup with Norway, has raised the Canadian team to new heights in the world scene and is well-respected as a coach.

But Hooper and Pellerud have clashed.

In July, the New Jersey Wildcats lost a playoff game to Ottawa. Hooper and goaltender Karina LeBlanc missed the game because they were playing for the national team in a friendly against the U.S. Pellerud allowed four members of the Fury, who also are national team players, to miss the friendly.

Pellerud said he allowed the Fury to keep the players because the team had made the request six months before the playoffs. He said he would have done the same for New Jersey if it had asked then. But when the team made its request just six days before the playoffs, he refused.

The Wildcats were further incensed when Pellerud opted not to play LeBlanc.
Crazy shite heading into qualifying.
 

Regs

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This discussion should fully turn to the point that Kerfoot is funding each carded player to the tune of $20k per year! WOW!

I wonder if Pipe is hard at work in getting the same type of commitment for the MNT?
 

TheRob

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20K a year PLUS the money they get for being carded athletes.

I was thinking the same thing. I would go as far to almost gauruntee a WC appearence by the men if such a program existed.
 

Dapotayto

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TheRob said:
I would go as far to almost gauruntee a WC appearence by the men if such a program existed.

You would go as far to almost gauruntee a WC appearance? Other than the fact that I have no idea what the word gaurantee means (medieval term for catapult perhaps?) I am amazed by the firm stance you are taking by almost committing to this amazing and perplexing action. In solidarity, I will almost guaruntee that I will donate ten bazillion dollars to UNICEF tomorrow. As well, I'm sure Kerfoot and the CSA are breathing easier now that you have put your support behind the program.

Now, please go to the hawt (sic) heroes thread for more discussion on your use of the English language in its written form.
 

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