Sydney Leroux's antics stoke Canada-U.S. rivalry | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerSydney Leroux's antics stoke Canada-U.S. rivalry

Posted: Monday, June 3, 2013 | 02:07 PM

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Sydney Leroux is a dual citizen who chose to play for the U.S. women’s soccer team over Canada’s. (Leon Halip/Getty Images) Sydney Leroux is a dual citizen who chose to play for the U.S. women’s soccer team over Canada’s. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

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Sydney Leroux's gesture to the fans in Toronto during Sunday's Canada-U.S. women's soccer friendly made front-page headlines on national newspapers, led sportscasts across the country and generally ticked off anyone who holds a passport with a maple leaf on it.
A self-centred, heavily tattooed Vancouverite showed people up in a game in Toronto again.

No, not the Blue Jays' Brett Lawrie.

This time it was Lawrie's former fiancee, Sydney Leroux.

Leroux, a striker for the U.S. women's soccer team, scored a goal to make it 3-nil in a friendly against Canada on Sunday night in Toronto. She then proceeded to insult the nation in which she was born and raised.

She kissed the emblem on her American jersey and then tried to shush the crowd by blowing on her upraised finger.

Not that finger, but it had the same effect.

The gesture made front-page headlines on national newspapers, led sportscasts across the country and generally ticked off anyone who holds a passport with a maple leaf on it.

Of course, Leroux has two passports, and she likes the one with the eagle on it the best.

That decision was presumably made some time in her late teens. After she'd represented Canada at the U-14 level. Before she became the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. at the U-20 level.

She's paid the price for switching allegiances. At last year's pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Vancouver, fans at B.C. Place held up signs saying "Traitor" and "Judas."

She proceeded to blow a kiss to the crowd and then helped blow away Guatemala, scoring five times in a 13-nil rout.

That's part of what's so vexing about Leroux's behaviour. If she weren't such a good player, it wouldn't matter.

With due respect to hockey player Hnat Domenichelli, when the Edmonton-born forward decided to play for Switzerland at the 2010 Olympics, folks in Vancouver didn't boo him, they cheered. It was nice that a Canadian could help a rival with a lower talent level compete.

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Switching sides

Leroux is definitely talented. If she played for Canada's national side right now, Christine Sinclair excluded, Leroux would easily be the most dangerous player on the team.

She has a sprinter's burst, a veteran's control of the ball, and the willingness to track back and defend.

It's the type of complete skill set Canada is sorely lacking. The type of tenacity that befits a captain.

Shame about the behavior, though. Sydney Leroux is no future captain.

Beyond her immense skills there's another reason Leroux's gestures at BMO Field caused such a media ruckus in this country.

She's shown the gall to play for our greatest sporting adversaries.

When boxing's Lennox Lewis or tennis' Greg Rusedski jumped ship to represent England, there was an outcry. But there wasn't disgust.

Craig Forrest, the former Canadian National Team goalkeeper who was on the broadcast team for Sunday's game, is one of television's nicest guys.

Yet, when Leroux gesticulated towards the fans at BMO Field, he couldn't help himself, calling her "classless" and exclaiming "You [the U.S.] can have her!"

I have no doubt those words were echoed (a bit more colourfully) in living rooms from Victoria to Montreal.

Much of that is because, like 90 percent of our population, Victoria and Montreal are spitting distance (don't get any ideas) from the American border.

Our southern neighbours are largely how we define ourselves as a nation.

We are unlike Americans because...

Fill in the blank.

Right now Canada's best men's player is Jonathan de Guzman. He'll likely be a member of the Dutch team at next year's World Cup. If he is, I'll bet most Canadians will wish him well and remind their friends he's from Brampton if he scores a goal or two.

Now imagine what would be said if de Guzman suited up  with Landon Donovan and the ol' Stars and Stripes  at the second-biggest sports event on the planet?

Probably something akin to what was said last summer, at the world's biggest sporting event -- the London Olympics -- where the U.S. denied Canada a place in the women's gold-medal match with a controversial semifinal win.

"The Americans robbed us!" "Abby Wambach is a cheater!" "The referee gave the game to the States!"

Leroux alleges racial slurs

This inferiority/superiority complex with the U.S. in sport has been going on a long time.

A couple of decades ago Brett Hull was vilified for deciding to play hockey for the U.S. Never mind that he initially wasn't considered good enoughto make Canada's roster, how could the son of the Golden Jet (Bobby Hull) play for the Americans?

At the 1996 World Cup, fans in Ottawa serenaded him with chants of "Traitor!"

The truth is, we Canadians need to get over comparisons with the Americans. There are more of them. They have more money. They have better resourced soccer teams.

And sometimes, they like to rub that in our noses.

Get over it.

There are now allegations from Sydney Leroux that her gestures to the crowd on Sunday were a response to racial slurs slung at her from the BMO Field seats.

If that's true, and let's hope that it isn't, it only underscores what's becoming increasingly evident in this country.

We Canadians need to focus on ourselves, and not on them.

Of course, if your name is Brett Lawrie, the reverse holds true.

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