Denmark scrambles together new squad, coach amid pay dispute

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) Denmark scrambled together a new squad and an interim coach on Tuesday to fulfil the national team’s obligations for upcoming matches against Slovakia and Wales amid a pay dispute involving its best players.

Former Denmark midfielder John Jensen will take charge for the friendly with Slovakia in Bratislava on Wednesday, the Danish soccer association said. Denmark coach Age Hareide has reportedly returned to his native Norway.

The names of the players will be published later Tuesday. They are set to come from the country’s lower leagues, with Danish media reporting some futsal players could also be called up.

Negotiations have collapsed between Denmark’s players’ union and the DBU over a new collective agreement regarding commercial rights, meaning players from the original squad – including Christian Eriksen and Kasper Schmeichel – were sent back to their clubs on Monday.

Denmark plays Wales in a UEFA Nations League group game on Sunday.

“We must field teams in the two international matches to avoid millions in fines and possible exclusion of the national team for several years,” said Kim Hallberg, the federation’s elite manager. “On behalf of the DBU and Danish football, I am pleased that John Faxe Jensen has taken the hard task of being coach for both matches.”

Jensen, a member of Denmark’s European Championship-winning team in 1992, said he was helping out to “mitigate the negative consequences.”

“Where we are now,” Jensen said, “I see only losers in the conflict, and Danish football loses most of all.”

The previous collective agreement between the players and the federation expired on July 31 and the two parties haven’t been able to agree on a new one.

The union says players want sponsorship deals made by the federation to continue to focus on the team and not individual players. The federation said it has offered improved terms and met a “large number of the players’ wishes in the commercial areas,” adding that the current situation was “serious and annoying.”

“We need to solve this conflict now,” Eriksen said, “not just dig the trenches deeper.”

The players are offering to extend the previous contract for another month to allow for more negotiations.

“Together we enter the deal and we all save the face of Danish football,” the playmaker added. “We are right here and we want to play football for Denmark as always.”

Last year, Denmark’s women’s team signed a four-year collective bargaining agreement with the federation, ending a dispute that saw the cancellation of a World Cup qualifier.

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