Now, with the story about that “other team” out of the way, time to write about the teams I actually follow, which includes the Canadian Women’s National Team, who, to my mind, really did win the gold, even though they didn’t.
On Monday, August 6th, I watched what was perhaps the best match I’ve ever seen at any level. True, I had a stake in it, being Canadian, but don’t take my word for it. Scott Murray at the Guardian called it the “greatest knockout match in major-tournament football since West Germany beat France in the semi-final of the 1982 World Cup.” If I may use a Red Fisher-ism, “it was that good.” Only problem was the ref helped decide the outcome.
I’ve seen many hundreds of games at all levels in my 35+ years of watching the game, and the 6 second rule called against McLeod in the 78th minute of the game is the first time I’ve ever seen it called. I don’t have access to a video of the game myself, but I’ve been told that both goalies violated the rule many times throughout the game and were never called for it. The reason for that is simple: it never gets called at any level. Like our appendix, its there but no one seems to know why it’s there, it just is.
Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen’s enforcement of the 6 second rule is indefensible. If it was called against the US at any time in the game it would have baffled me, but to call it at that point in the game, when the rule had been violated several times throughout the game by both goalies calls into question the integrity of the referee. This wasn’t merely bad judgment, which the penalty that was awarded immediately after most certainly was, it was as close as you get to calling what is effectively a non-existent rule. And, on top of it, a rule that was made up near the end of the game. One brave American writer at NBC wrote :
“Only the most egregious, blatant violation of the perennially-ignored six-second rule, one that demonstrated a nakedly overt effort to defy and show up match officials, deserved such harsh treatment.
McLeod’s actions didn’t even approach such a standard.”
Initially, it was easy to suspect foul play on the part of the ref, pun intended. It just seemed impossible that a ref with five years experience could be that incompetent. I still won’t rule out foul play, but the other possibility is that she just wasn’t up to the challenge of handling Abby Wambauch’s counting head games. “I wasn’t yelling. I was just counting…Probably did it five to seven times.”, she said. I dare anyone who still plays organized football anywhere in the world to do this. You’ll almost certainly be awarded with a yellow card. That’s what Petersen should have done, but instead she let Wambauch get to her.
This call will go down in history. I hope that at the very least, we get a new way of intimidating opposing goalies as they handle the ball when in my usual section behind the goal at Saputo Stadium: “one steamboat, two steamboat, three steamboat….”