Monday’s football match between Team USA and Team Canada will go down as an instant classic thanks to it’s dramatic finishing goal by Alex Morgan in overtime. But the Canadian’s are crying foul, claiming that the match was tainted by referee bias.
Christine Sinclair had the game of the Olympics when it comes to football performances. She put up a hat trick and helped her team take the lead on three separate occasions. But her performance for the ages wasn’t enough to overcome what she thought was a Team USA bias by Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen.
“We feel like we didn’t lose, we feel like it was taken from us,” Sinclair said. “It’s a shame in a game like that that was so important, the ref decided the result before it started.”
Now what would compel Sinclair to feed that kind of soundbite to the 24-hour sports news cycle?
In the 78th minute of the match, and Canada leading 3-2, the ball bounced back around to Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod. Rather than punt the ball upfield, McLeod was looking for a fullback to dump the ball to. She hesitated and then decided to just booted it up the field. But then the whistle blew and a penalty was called — on Team Canada.
Pedersen felt that McLeod had held the ball too long and violated the six second rule.
This is the major controversy. Pedersen blew the whistle but according to McLeod, there was no warning given and more importantly McLeod didn’t even know that could be called.
The controversy didn’t end there. On the initial penalty kick, the ball blasted into Canadian Marie-Eve Nault which is a penalty. On the second kick Abby Wambach scored and tied the game 3-3. The problem with that is the Canadian’s are citing a missed handball call on American Megan Rapinoe a mere 10 minutes prior.
But the wrath of Team Canada was focused on the six second violation that led to the penalty kick.
U.S head coach Pia Sundhage said she had never seen that call made before. If you’re familiar with Sundhage’s football career, she’s basically been around since the inception of the game. She’s been around a long time and this was the first time she had seen this call made.
That didn’t help extinguish the fire int he bellies of the Canadian’s who upon review probably should have won the match. Sinclair ran up to Pedersen and demanded an explanation for the call.
“She actually giggled and said nothing,” Sinclair said. “Classy.”
Sinclair wasn’t alone. Just about every member of Team Canada ran up to Pedersen, bum rushing her for a proper explanation of the call. Well that and some just wanted to get in their passionate cheap shots while the call was still fresh.
“I said, ‘I hope you can sleep tonight. Put on your American jersey. That’s who you played for today,’” Melissa Tancredi said, voice shaking. “I was honest.”
Pedersen can count her blessings that this happened in a heavily protected Olympic stadium and not in a stadium in Spain. These kinds of blown calls have been made before and rarely do the referee’s leave the arena unscathed.
This is the type of call that would have incited a biblical football riot had it happened anywhere else int he world at any other time.
Canadian coach John Herdman wasn’t able to contain his rage either after the match.
“We’ll move on from this,” he said with glassy, dazed eyes. “I wonder if [Pedersen] will be able to. To watch them just keep getting up was phenomenal. It felt like it was America and the referee against us.”
But even though they aren’t in contention for the gold medal anymore, the Canadians can never have the game that they played taken away from them. Sinclair played the best game of the Olympics so far and they almost (and should have) took down the world No. 1. The sting will forever be there but like members of the team are declaring, no one wants to be the team who will play them in the bronze medal game.