It wasn’t Christine Sinclair’s scathing comments to the media that landed her in hot water, but her actions toward an official.
Canada’s women’s soccer captain received a four-game suspension from FIFA last Friday for “displaying unsporting behaviour towards match officials after the match.”
The 29-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., said she accepts FIFA’s ruling, but has no regrets for her actions following Canada’s heartbreaking and dramatic 4-3 semifinal loss to the United States at the London Olympics.
“I don’t regret what I said,” Sinclair said on a conference call Monday. “We had just lost the chance at playing for an Olympic gold medal and that’s a dream that all of us have, and it was a very intense time and I was emotional and I wouldn’t want to change that.”
Sinclair was also fined 3,000 Swiss francs (C$3,152), plus 500 Swiss francs (C$525) as a processing fee. The Canadian Soccer Association will pick up the tab for both.
The CSA has requested the reasons for judgment from FIFA and expects to receive those in about 10 days. According to the CSA, Sinclair’s comments to the official can’t be discussed as part of disciplinary process.
Sinclair will serve three games of her suspension during the Four Nations Cup in China in January, and she’ll sit one more at the Cyprus Cup in February.
The veteran captain recorded all three goals for Canada in the Olympic semifinal at Old Trafford in arguably her finest performance of her career, and what will surely be one of the most enduring memories of the Games. Canada had the lead until the Americans pulled even late in the second half and prevented a big upset by adding the winner in extra time.
Sinclair and several teammates lashed out publicly at referee Christiana Pedersen after the game, left feeling robbed in a loss they believed was decided by officials.
“We feel like we didn’t lose, we feel like it was taken from us,” Sinclair said moments after the final whistle. “It’s a shame in a game like that that was so important, the ref decided the result before it started.”
Asked Monday is she truly believed the match was fixed, Sinclair said “No I don’t ultimately believe that (Pedersen) went into the match hoping the U.S. would win.”
CSA president Peter Montopoli said the national organization supported Sinclair, and “appreciates the Canadian public’s support of the world class player and ambassador for the game who has represented our country so proudly.”
The United States went on to win the gold medal in London while Canada took the bronze.
The Canadian women were furious about a call against goalkeeper Erin McLeod that led to Abby Wambach’s game-tying penalty in the 80th minute.
McLeod was whistled for handling the ball for longer than six seconds â€” a ruling that both Canadian coach John Herdman and American coach Pia Sundhage said they’d never seen enforced. The Americans were awarded a free kick inside the box which bounced off the arm of defender Marie-Eve Nault, resulting in the penalty shot.
“I still can’t watch the game against the U.S.,” Sinclair said. “It’s still a touchy subject. It was an emotional time and it got the best of me.”
Sinclair said she hadn’t felt any pressure to apologize for her actions, and has received an outpouring of support from Canadian fans and fellow athletes.
A Facebook page titled “Christine Sinclair: movement to help pay FIFA’s unfair fine” was created within minutes of the announcement and many fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with FIFA.
The ban is one of the longest in recent Canadian memory.
Fullback Paul Stalteri was suspended for four games after throwing a water bottle off the bench in protest of a nullified goal in a 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Honduras in Edmonton in 2004. His red card carried an automatic one-game ban and FIFA added a three-game suspension on top of it.
Sinclair, who was informed of the ban by the CSA via a phone call and email Friday morning, said she had no clue what kind of penalty to expect.
“You don’t really hear much about suspensions and fines in women’s games, so I had no idea,” she said. “Obviously hearing the suspension and the fine I was disappointed, but I’m ready to move on.
“Ultimately if it means me missing a couple of games at the start of 2013, it’s not the end of the world. It’ll be a great test for my teammates and we’ll move on and prepare for the World Cup.”
Canada will host the 2015 women’s World Cup and Sinclair and her teammates have their sights set on the top of the podium. She said she can’t, however, see using her suspension as added motivation as the team prepares for what she called the “biggest three years ever in the women’s program’s history.”
“For me personally missing a couple of games at the start of 2013 knowing that we have the World Cup coming up and then the following Olympics it’s not really the biggest deal in a sense,” she said.
“I don’t even remember games that we played in China before the last World Cup for instance. But it’s a good opportunity for our team. I know John (Herdman) wants to try some younger players and there’s no better chance than international games against some of the best teams in the world.”