Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Seize the moment, and medal

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Canada's 1-0 win against France in the bronze medal soccer match Thursday is a bit of a redemption. The Olympic team struggled in the second half, but then five-foot middle fielder Diana Matheson scored in the 92nd minute. It is Canada's first medal in a traditional team sport in Summer Games in more than 75 years. Congratulations, ladies.

But there remains hanging over the team the gripe that it was robbed of the chance to go for gold by the calls of referee Christiana Pedersen in the semi-final match against the United States. It is time for the Canadian team to put the grievance to rest and rise above the squawking.

That requires team captain Christine Sinclair to show the Olympic spirit and withdraw her intemperate, unfair remarks made about Ms. Pedersen's calls at game's end.

Ms. Sinclair was justifiably crushed by the 4-3 loss against a formidable American team, which Canada last beat in 2001. The Canadian captain and superstar scored a hat trick but the team was ultimately bested after Ms. Pedersen made questionable calls late into the game. She called keeper Erin McLeod, who was previously warned, for holding the ball too long, giving the Americans two free kicks. Ms. Pedersen then controversially awarded a penalty shot to the U.S. on an accidental hand ball; usually unintentional contact with an arm is ignored. American Amy Wambach tied the game and set up an extra 30 minutes that were capped by a sterling U.S. goal just 30 seconds before the end.

Melissa Tancredi called the referee unprofessional and accused her of playing for the other team. Bad as that was, Christine Sinclair publicly declared that the ref had decided the game in the Americans' favour before it started.

Every soccer team has suffered the predictably human results of missed and mistaken calls. But Ms. Sinclair and others said the Norwegian was out to get the Canadians, an unsupported accusation. There is no evidence the ref did anything but call the game she saw, however flawed her judgment. Canada did not challenge the officiating.

FIFA, the world soccer federation, decided to hold off ruling on the players' conduct until after Canada's bronze-medal showdown against France. The decision allowed the full team to dress.

Ms. Sinclair is Canada's pre-eminent player, and she has the duty of the captain's stripes to uphold. Her remarks were unbecoming of an Olympian. She should apologize unreservedly so Canada can rejoice with the team in its victory, its climb to glory from a dismal World Cup showing in 2011, unsullied by the taint of unresolved bitterness.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Gerald Flood, Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2012 A14

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