More than two months after the notorious Olympic semi-final match between Canada and the United States, FIFA is issuing a 4 game suspension and $3,500 fine to Christine Sinclair.
The 29-year-old CanWNT captain was sanctioned by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee for “displaying unsporting behaviour”. During post-match interviews for the 4-3 loss to the Americans, Sinclair questioned the refereeing of Norway’s Christiana Pedersen. Sinclair was quoted saying:
Obviously, we’re disappointed and upset. We felt that the referee took it away from us, so, yes, we are disappointed. We feel like we didn’t lose, we feel like it was taken from us. It’s a shame in a game like that, which is so important, that the ref decided the result before the game started.
Canada had been leading the semi-final 3-2 thanks to a Sinclair hattrick. In the 78th minute, Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod was whistled on an extremely rare 6-second rule. According to Pedersen, McLeod was taking longer than 6 seconds to release the ball upon this and previous goal kicks.
The resulting US free kick at the top of the box ricocheted off the arm of defender Marie-Eve Nault (some fans have argued that this instance was ball-to-arm, not arm-to-ball, i.e. unintentional). A penalty kick was subsequently awarded, which Abby Wambach buried to tie the match and force overtime.
A number of other questionable (non)calls were made during the match. Some fans would argue that Pedersen missed a PK for Canada when the ball struck the arm of US midfielder Megan Rapinoe in the second half. US goalkeeper Hope Solo, too, held the ball for more than 6-seconds on several occasions. Both squads were overtly physical, which should have warranted more cards being handed out to keep the match under control; Canada received the only 2 yellow cards issued. Canadian striker Melissa Tancredi appeared to have “stomped” on the head of Carli Lloyd, an allegation that Tancredi denies.
The US went on to win Olympic gold against Japan, while Canada took bronze over France.
The severity of Sinclair’s punishment is being compared relative to the 2-match ban of Colombia’s Lady Andrade, who punched Wambach in the face during an Olympic group match.
Sinclair is expected to address media on Monday regarding the suspension and fine.
Based on the FIFA Disciplinary Code tweeted by Jason deVos, since Canada is hosting the next Women’s World Cup and are not required to play in qualifying, Sinclair will serve the suspension during any upcoming friendlies.
As announced by the Canadian Soccer Association, “No further information will be available from the Canadian Soccer Association or media interviews granted on this decision until such time as those reasons for judgement are received and reviewed by the Canadian Soccer Association.”
In other news, the CanWNT are nominated for Yahoo! Canada’s The Big Buzz Awards for Big Buzz Story of the Year and Sinclair for Buzziest Canadian. Click here to vote. Also, the team will return to camp in December in Vancouver.
[Oct 15 update: The Canadian Soccer Association will pay for Sinclair’s $3,500 fine. She’ll serve her suspension when Canada competes at China’s Four Nation’s Tournament in January. However, if Canada makes an early exit from the tournament, then it’ll spill into the Cyprus Cup in March.
The punishment handed down by FIFA wasn’t for Sinclair’s post-match comments to media, but for comments she allegedly made directly to Pedersen immediately following the match. During Monday’s conference call, Sinclair said, “I’d like to acknowledge FIFA’s decision and it is my intent to accept it… As a player, you just want to move on as well as I want my team to move on.”]