Matheson has made 206 appearances for Canada, winning two bronze Olympic medals. A midfielder, she plays for Utah Royals in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). De Jong has represented Canada 56 times and plays for Pacific FC as a defender. He is the president of the newly-founded Professional Footballers Association Canada (PFACan).
The FIFPRO Global Player Council is now represented by 19 players from each continent. In a video conversation, the Canadian players discuss their careers and the outlook for soccer in their country. De Jong tells how PFACan is seeking recognition from Canada Soccer and the Canadian Premier League.
“It has been a bumpy ride,” De Jong, 33, says. “Everybody has their own opinion about unions and I respect that. But we are here for the players and we want to improve the league, improve Canada, and make it more interesting for well-known players to come to Canada. We are not there yet, but at some point we will see eye to eye, work together and walk through the same door.”
Matheson, 36, was one of the founders of the Canadian Women's National Soccer Team Players' Association, which also had to fight for recognition when it launched in 2016.
Before the 2008 Olympics, the women’s team had had a verbal agreement with Canada Soccer that came to nothing. “That pushed us to get organized and to make multi-year agreements with Canada Soccer,” she said.
“Making the first contracts was a bit contentious,” she said. “We got pushed back. But it has one hundred percent improved the players relationship with Canada Soccer, because both sides now know what is expected of them and there are no constant arguments about details.”
De Jong’s career: from Netherlands to MLS
De Jong, who was born in Canada, moved to the Netherlands as a child and played there until he joined German club FC Augsburg in 2010.
“In Holland, I just felt like everything is so organised,” he said. “There were no issues. There were no fights between the players and the league. There was always this clarity and I think that is the main thing that I want for the player association in Canada, this clarity. It’s huge for players to know that they are taken care off.”
Later he played for four years in in Major League Soccer, where he also saw the importance of the role of the national player union, he said.
Matheson: the future of the NWSL
Matheson said NWSL players were consulted during the shutdown of the league because of covid-19. “The league did a good job of really listening to feedback,” she said. “They heard our concerns.”
But, returning to play, she was disappointed by the lack of media spotlight on the NWSL Challenge Cup.
“The media silence was deafening,” she said. “Until women can see women play, women can see women coaching, and women can see women leading, women’s football is going to have less of an impact and will be slower to build.”
She expects more Canadian players to join clubs in Europe as contracts improve. ”We’ve just had one of our players graduate from university who’s going to play at Chelsea. They are offering good money, why wouldn’t you go play there?”
Expanding the Global Player Council
“Diana and Marcel bring a wealth of experience from club and national-team football in North America to the Global Player Council,” Simon Colosimo, FIFPRO deputy general secretary, said.
“We look forward to working closely with them to make sure that they – and players around the world - are at the heart of the game’s development.”