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FIFA overly harsh in four match ban of Sinclair

Christine Sinclair
Christine Sinclair

Christine Sinclair has been suspended four matches by FIFA for comments following Canada's 4-3 extra time loss to the U.S. in the Olympic semifinal on August 6. (Photo Copyright: Patti Giobetti |

Christine Sinclair has been suspended four games and fined $3,500 for actions surrounding Canada’s 4-3 loss to the United States in this year’s Olympic semifinal, the Canadian Soccer Association confirmed on Friday.

The Canadian captain was highly critical of Norwegian referee Christiana Pederson after her team’s controversial loss, which included an extremely rare six-second call on Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod that then led to a handball and a penalty kick. Sinclair had a hat trick in that match and was justifiably miffed with the ref after the game (as was just about every Canadian on the planet).

Officially, the punishment is “for displaying unsporting behaviour towards match officials after the match played between Canada and USA of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012,” according to a CSA press release.

I already wrote that FIFA’s poor timing to “investigate” Sinclair’s comments made this entire process a farce – so I thought.

I still believe that FIFA has overreacted here, particularly given that any punishment meant to send a message would have come immediately following the match and affected Canada’s bronze medal match (which I think would have been too harsh of a punishment for the crime).

But the extent of this punishment is far from meaningless. FIFA has done exactly what it wanted here: shown who is boss and made an example out of a star player. Don’t expect players to speak their minds as freely after this decision.

Sinclair currently has 143 international goals to her name. She, along with U.S. striker Abby Wambach (who has 146 goals), is chasing Mia Hamm’s record of 158 goals. Missing out on a full four matches – in a stretch where Canada has not played since its bronze medal win on August 9 and the U.S. is amidst a 10-game gold medal victory tour – could cost Sinclair the distinction of breaking Hamm’s record first.

Sinclair is three years younger than Wambach and should overtake Wambach eventually given that age gap, but it will be a special moment for whichever player makes history first. FIFA has, intentionally or unintentionally, significantly reduced those aspirations for Sinclair.

There is also the fact that $3,500 isn’t exactly pennies (this isn’t the NFL), but let’s get to the most shocking issue here:

Sinclair’s suspension is double – DOUBLE – that of the two game ban FIFA handed out to Colombia’s Lady Andrade for sucker-punching Abby Wambach in a group stage match (and only one of those games has been served since Colombia didn’t advance). Some ill-willed comments for a referee are apparently more detrimental to the game and the FIFA brand than a malicious form of physical violence (VIDEO here at the 53 second mark).

That is where things get ludicrous. Frankly, it’s inexplicable by comparison, which is a very fair one given the common opponent in the same tournament and the different extremities of the incidents.

Often these sorts of issues turn from intelligent debate to nationalistic name-calling, which is pretty much what the entire week after that semifinal felt like (from both sides of the border). But I’m not an ounce Canadian and I can’t possibly agree with this one.

Talk all you want about Sinclair’s actions undermining Pederson and respect for referees, but like I said before, I have heard a lot worse get punished a lot less.

This issue is merely a blip on the radar in an ever-increasing resume for Sinclair. When she hangs up the boots, she’ll be in the conversation for the best striker the world has seen to date and maybe this series of events gets mentioned in passing. But for now, it’s just terrible inconsistency and overreaction from FIFA.


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