Christine Sinclair's suspension wasn't for comments to media
Soccer captain suspended 4 games and fined by FIFA
It was Christine Sinclair's actions that got her into trouble — not her words.
The 29-year-old Canadian women's soccer captain was suspended four games and fined approximately $3,500 last week for what a FIFA disciplinary panel deemed "unsporting behaviour" toward officials at the London 2012 Summer Games.
As it turns out, the ban wasn't because of her scathing comments to the media after, but because of her actions toward an official following the match. On Monday, Sinclair wasn't ready to offer up any apologies.
"I don't regret what I said," she told reporters during a conference call. "We just lost the chance of playing for an Olympic gold medal, and that's a dream that all of us have. It was a very intense time and I was very emotional and I wouldn't want to change that."
The Canadian Soccer Association will pay the fine but is still awaiting a written explanation from FIFA. The CSA said it expects the results within the next 10 days, and also said it can't discuss Sinclair's comments due to the disciplinary process.
Sinclair reiterated Monday she has no intent to appeal the ban and said her comments were made during an important and emotional moment, and just wants to move on.
"I'd like to acknowledge FIFA's decision and it is my intent to accept it," she said. "As a player, you just want to move on as well as I want my team to move on."
Sinclair made some pointed post-match remarks directed at referee Christiana Pedersen after Canada's controversial 4-3 semifinal loss to the United States in extra time, a game in which she felt her squad was treated unjustly.
"We feel like we didn't lose, we feel like it was taken from us," she said shortly after the match ended. "It's a shame in a game like that that was so important, the ref decided the result before it started."
No malicious intent
The Burnaby, B.C., native — who led the tournament in goals with six in six contests — did everything she could to help her team win that game. Sinclair scored a hat trick, but it was ultimately the U.S. who went on to win the game and eventually capture the gold medal.
However, she added Monday she didn't truly believe Pedersen had any malicious intent towards the Canadian squad, which ended up winning a historic bronze. It was the first medal for the country at the Summer Games in a traditional team discipline since 1936.
She also said the punishment caught her off-guard, as she woke up Friday to emails and phone calls from CSA officials revealing FIFA had made its decision.
"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."
Sinclair said she's received plenty of support from fellow prominent Canadian athletes and fans alike throughout the process.
"Sinclair suspension dumbest thing I ever heard!! No guts to do it during the games, what's the point after?" tweeted Canadian hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser after the suspension was announced.
If there is any good news for the Canadian squad and Sinclair though, it’s that her suspension will be served during Canada’s next round of friendlies, which goes through a January tournament in China and will spill over to the Cyprus Cup should Canada be eliminated early on.
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.
As for the match itself, Sinclair is still feeling the sting of the loss.
"I still can't watch the game against the U.S., it's still a touchy subject," she said. "Like I said earlier it was an emotional time and it got the best of me."
Canada will be competing on home soil at the upcoming 2015 women's World Cup. The following year the Canadians will be hoping to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
With files from The Canadian Press