Welcome to Partially Obstructed View. We are each restrained by the limits of our own perspective, but when we meet to share information a clearer picture of the truth can be revealed. Comments & criticisms are welcome.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

First Person View – When the Decision Goes Against & Moving On

    Much ink has been spilt over this controversy already, so rather than go over the whole story over again I thought it pertinent to take a look at a few of the parallels that have not yet been mentioned.

    With everyone taking stance, camps firmly entrenched on either side of the divide, or trying to excuse the need for discussion by pointing to another unpunished injustice, no one has asked how either side would feel if put in the other’s shoes.

    Would Canada have taken the opportunity were it given to them? Of course they would.

    And would the USA feel aggrieved had the calls gone against them? Of course they would.

    There exists a measure of common ground between the two camps and as we all know the world is seldom cut and dry. There should be much more understanding between the two sets of fans than is on offer, after all American soccer fans have felt the pain at the hands of a mysterious official’s decision that now afflicts their Canadian neighbours.

    It occurred to me, that this sort of rage from North America over the decisions of a referee in a major international competition has been displayed before.

    No, not the Gold Cup, nor World Cup Qualifying, but the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

    In the dying minutes of another exhilarating match, this one between the US and Slovenia, a puzzling decision from referee Koman Coulibaly of Mali disallowed a would-be winner from Maurice Edu for a phantom foul in the box as the American smashed a volley from a Landon Donovan free kick.

    Of course, there are differences: the USA had a goal taken away, while Canada feels one was given to their opponent; it was a knock-out match for the Canadians, while the Americans still had a final group match – against Algeria – to keep their hopes alive.

    There have been others of course – Torsten Frings’ handball in 2002 comes to mind – but this one is particularly pertinent.

    The tales of woe converge in the post-match comments from their most prominent members and from the ire raised in their fans and media towards the official.

    As Donovan left the field, he is reported to have said to ESPN, "I don't know how they stole that last goal from us."

    Not all that different from that which Christine Sinclair and her teammates unleashed in their frustrations.

    US Coach Bob Bradley was far more diplomatic and calculated in his choice of words, proffering a dampening tone, one which John Herdman would have done well to study, rather than have exacerbated the incident by getting involved in the emotive protests himself.

    Much of today’s conference call – against the explicit directives laid out at the beginning - revolved around the investigation by FIFA, its possible consequences, and not the upcoming Bronze Medal match against France.

    Herdman is an impressive individual; one got the sense that he had put the matter behind him – as had his team – and was looking forward to the next challenge on Thursday.

    Time will tell what FIFA feels compelled to do with a tournament they prefer to have little to do with. I don’t seem to recall any supplemental discipline emanating from the incident for Donovan.

    Coulibaly was said to have laboured on in silence, not offering up an explanation. Christina Pedersen simply smiled and giggled as she turned away. Hopefully the witch-hunt from across the ocean that hounded Coulibaly will not pursue her.

    The most interesting piece to evolve out of the dramatics was an interview with Pedersen’s father, himself a referee.

    She did seem slightly out of her depth – an intense match between these two familiar foes was always apt to be full-blooded – and one must wonder if hers was the best appointment available, surely Howard Webb would have gladly taken the match – I kid, I kid.

    Despite all the disappointment, this should not be allowed to descend into the hatred that other referees - such as Tom Henning Ovrebo of Chelsea v. Barcelona fame - have had to deal with in the past. 

    A part of me can’t help but wonder whether Herdman’s gentle prodding of the referees regarding the American’s use of illegal tactics may have backfired in some way. Officials seldom react well to such instruction on how to perform their job.

    Mind games can be a treacherous pursuit.

    It appears Canada had been forewarned about the time-wasting in the match against Team GB and should have been more aware of the danger. Officials were on the lookout and Canada gave them the opportunity to affect the match.

    Luckily, it seems that all the players, including Desiree Scott, who was involved in a nasty knee-on-knee collision, should be on the pitch for the match against France.

    Herdman stressed on the call, that through the course of tournament the side has “achieved without achieving” – a poignant turn of phrase.

    When questioned about having to face France, the side that derailed their progress in the World Cup, Herdman went on to outline how the women have exercised those demons in the past few matches.

    Against Sweden, it was about facing a top side and fighting back, showing the resilience that a team needs. Against England, it was about performing in the pressure of eliminating a favoured host, taking the lead, and holding it out. Against the US, it was about approaching the best, standing and rising.

    They have moved on, they are motivated to make history, and to see that flag rise as they take the podium.

    Regardless of tint, each alloy is precious.

    Whether you think the call was just, or that the idea of empathy for the opponent or the official is unnecessary, there is another match to play.

    The team may have missed out, but in doing so they have won – or as Herdman said, achieved. That match will long live in the memory as one of the best tournament matches football has offered the world. They have made new fans and drawn the preexisting closer together. They broke from the background into the mainstream media consciousness.

    They were Olympic and there’s no better compliment that can be paid to an athlete.

    The sportsmanship displayed by playing the ball out when an American defender required treatment was chivalric.

    Canada will host the 2015 Women’s World Cup. One can bet that they sold a few tickets for that as well.

    I look forward to the rematch.

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