Christine Sinclair Deserves a Lifetime Olympic Ban

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I wrote last week that the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team [CWNT] had only themselves to blame for their loss to the U.S.A in their semi-final match at the London Olympics – and it created quite a storm.  I have a feeling this week I’m going to the same.  Having read their post-match comments, and having spent time to consider my position, I think it’s time that the Canadian Soccer Association needs to hand the team’s captain and “golden girl” (perhaps that should be “bronzed” given the colour of her medal and that after her comments in London she’s somewhat tarnished) Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi lengthy bans from International matches and that the IOC should consider a lifetime Olympic ban for both players.  I’d also urge sponsors for both the CWNT and the individual athletes to seriously consider their associations with the team and players.

Sound harsh? No more so than accusing the referee of bias… of deliberately handing the match to the United States.  It’s offensive, defamatory and, I’d argue, almost impossible to do.  The referees decisions were based on infractions of the laws of the game… had the Canadian side not given the referee cause to penalize them she would, had she been minded to do so, have been powerless to do anything to help the USA team.  There is no place for comments like those made by Sinclair and Tancredi in either the professional game or the amateur one.  What kind of example is it setting by having Sinclair not only part of, but as it stands, the captain of the national side?  Players of the beautiful game disagree with referees’ decisions week in, week out… but that doesn’t give them the right to accuse officials of cheating.  What happened to the Olympic ideal of the taking part being more important than the winning?

I made the point in last week’s column that referees are human.  They make mistakes.  They don’t see things that happen.  They also make judgement calls.  I don’t disagree with the widely-held view that the referee Christiana Pedersen made some bad calls… but show me a referee that doesn’t and I’ll gladly part with $100 of my hard-earned cash.  It’s all part of the game – some decisions go in your favour, some don’t. You deal with it and you move on.  If you lose as a result of a bad call, it’s how you deal with it that counts – not who you blame, or who you accuse of cheating.

I’ll leave you with one example of how far soccer has to come in the way that its players conduct themselves.  A few years ago I watched an international Rugby match on TV.  The referees are mic’d so that both commentators and viewers can hear the conversations between referee and players and between the referee and his line officials.  I forget who the player was – from memory it was a New Zealand international (for those that don’t know, one of the cream of the Rugby Union crop) – but he was sent off for a what was, in all honesty, a minor infraction.  He wasn’t the only player to have been breaking the rules, but he was the only one penalized for it.  His words to the referee as he left the pitch… ‘I’m sorry, Sir’.

I said it last week and I’ll say it again… Christine Sinclair [and Melissa Tancredi] need to make a public apology to both the referee and Canadian soccer fans for their conduct and their attitude.  They need to accept that they lost because they didn’t score enough goals and take responsibility for the team’s failure. Twitter seems as good a place to start as any… how about it @sincy12 and @MelTancredi14?

(Flickr image by Paul Albertella)

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