To this day, two months after the hurt, Christine Sinclair can’t watch a replay of Canada’s crushing loss to the U.S. in the Olympic women’s soccer. It’s still too raw; “a touchy subject,” she explained Monday.
But that doesn’t mean the 29-year-old captain regrets what she said after seeing two controversial officiating calls cost her team a chance at a gold medal in London. Speaking for the first time since receiving a four-game suspension for “unsporting behavior towards match officials,” Sinclair took her punishment but wouldn’t take back her words.
She accepted her four-game ban for her actions towards Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen after the match. (Sinclair’s suspension was for that, not for comments made to the media.) Sinclair even admitted that despite her anger at the time she didn’t “ultimately believe [Pedersen] went into the match hoping the U.S. would win.”
But regrets, apologies? Sinclair offered neither after reflecting on the suspension she received last Friday.
“I’ve been asked this a few times: I don’t regret what I said,” Sinclair told reporters during a conference call. “We just lost the chance to play for an Olympic gold medal. I was very emotional. I wouldn’t want to change that.
“No, I haven’t felt any pressure to apologize from anyone, from the people of Canada, my family, my teammates,” she added. “It was an emotional time and it got the best of me.”
Canada was leading 3-2, with Sinclair having scored all three goals, when a pair of calls by Pedersen enabled the U.S. to score on a penalty kick before winning in extra time. According to a FIFA statement, Sinclair’s most damning comments were made after the match in a public setting. To reporters, Sinclair later fumed, “It’s a shame in a game like that, that was so important, the ref decided the result before it started.”
Other Canadian players made similar comments to the media, but not post-match to the referee.
The Canadian Soccer Association has asked FIFA for the reasons behind its suspension of Sinclair and is expecting them within 10 days. Along with the four-game ban, Sinclair was fined $3,500 in Swiss francs. The Canadian Soccer Association will pay the fine.
CSA president Victor Montagliani said his organization acknowledged the suspension but noted, “The Association supports Christine in this matter and appreciates the Canadian public’s support of the world-class players and ambassador for the game who represented our country so proudly.
“We stand behind our player 100 per cent.”
Canadians and other athletes rushed to Sinclair’s defence over the weekend, arguing that the four-game suspension was too harsh. Technically, FIFA could have chosen to suspend Sinclair prior to the bronze-medal game, which Canada won against France, but didn’t, saying it needed time to investigate matters.
Sinclair made a point of thanking everyone who supported her. She spoke, too, of getting the suspension out of the way as quickly as possible and building for the 2015 women’s World Cup to be held in Canada.
“Actually, heading into [the FIFA investigation] I had no idea. You don’t hear much about suspensions and fines in the women’s game,” Sinclair said. “Obviously I was disappointed. If it means missing games at the start of 2013, with the coming World Cup and the Olympics, it’s not really the biggest deal in a sense. … I’m ready to move on.”