Remember the players; forget the ref


Ten days into the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Canada witnessed soccer history. Our Canadian women’s soccer team gave us the performance of a lifetime, and our nation should remember this day for the spectacular showing from our team, not the controversy surrounding the referee.

During knockout stages, the Canadians were playing the Americans in the semifinal round that would advance the winner to the gold medal game — a match that has seen Canadians at the losing end for the past 11 years. This game was ours for the taking.  Unfortunately, due to a call made in the 78th minute, the Canadians found themselves in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Canada had led for most of the match when a controversial ruling took over the game. Official Christiana Pedersen ruled that the Canadian goalkeeper, Erin McLeod, had held the ball for longer than six seconds, and according to Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) rules, issued an indirect free kick to the Americans for the Canadians’ time wasting.

FIFA rules state that a warning must be issued to the goaltender before making this call, which Pedersen failed to do. Moreover, American player Abby Wambach was counting the seconds that McLeod was holding the ball, which drew Pedersen’s attention and resulted in the call. Even the American coach, Pia Sundhage, said after the game, “I’ve never seen that before.” The indirect free kick contributed to the game-tying goal, and eventually Canada lost 4-3 in extra time.

Of course, this call was incredibly controversial, and yes, our team should have been playing for a gold medal. However, it is unacceptable for us to dwell on what could have been instead of focusing on this unbelievable accomplishment. This team delivered a performance that made Canadian women’s soccer history, and we should be proud of them.

Sure, we didn’t win the game, but that isn’t as important. For a team that doesn’t bring in as much funding, yet is still able to compete for Olympic medals, the 2012 Canadian women’s national soccer team played an incredible game. As a nation that believes in fair play and hard work, we should remember this incredible success. So why focus our attention on poor officiating? How about we focus on the positive aspects of these Olympics?

The Canadians had not beat the Americans in 11 years, yet they dominated the play for most of the game. Our captain, Christine Sinclair, scored three goals. The team brought home a bronze medal. Even so, the nation put too much pressure on our athletes. Sinclair apologized to Canada for letting us down. This is ridiculous. We need to make sure that our athletes know that we know they played their best.

It’s time to wake up, Canada. Everything we heard in the media was so focused on the controversy surrounding the official, nobody remembers the heart and soul our team showed that day. They left everything they had on that field for our nation, and we still think that is not good enough? It is time for us to stop thinking of our women’s soccer team as never being able to deliver anything of quality. It is time to recognize the heights this team can achieve with the support of our country. Do we want our players to enter international competitions knowing that their country does not care?  No!  We want them to have our full support and know that, win or lose, we will always be behind them.  Our Canadian women’s soccer team has come so far from where they started with very little support from Canada.  Now, with the 2015 World Cup scheduled to take place in Canada, is a perfect opportunity to showcase how proud we are of our athletes.