Americans handed win

Officiating has not been completely fair so far in the London 2012 Olympics.

I am not saying Team Canada’s women’s soccer team is better than the U.S. women’s soccer team, and I am not saying the U.S. would not have won the match in some other way without the officials going completely off the rails.

I am saying the officiating was abysmal, and apallingly one-sided, from start to finish in the semi-final match that the Americans won in extra time to move into the gold medal game.

The ridiculous award of a free kick inside the box for goalkeeper delay was virtually unprecedented.

Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, who is paid to pay attention to high level soccer, devoted an entire paragraph of his post game write up explaining that the call was a lifetime first for him. He never, watching thousands of games as he makes his living, had seen such a call.

It was as if the referee was saying to herself, “I keep giving these U.S. girls positional advantages and they are still behind after 80 minutes. What more can I do. Oh, wait, I can do this. Award a free kick right inside the box for something every goalkeeper ahead in a game does all the time.

From that range, the ball is likely to tick a hand somewhere, then I can award a penalty kick that can be taken by one of the most prolific scorers in history. That should do it.”

I was actually surprised the Canadians came that close. After five minutes, with two egregiously bad calls already in the books (a corner kick and a throw-in to the U.S. that were obvious, “mistakes,”) I was mumbling, “No way Canada can win this game.”

The officiating, which allowed rough play for both sides to go unchallenged and uncontrolled throughout, settled in to a, “give the Americans the benefit of the doubt,” pattern which was maintained to the end.

Bad enough a blatant handball in the U.S. box, which would have given Christine Sinclair a penalty kick at her fourth goal, was ignored. Worse that a less than blatant one (ball to hand, not hand to ball) was then called to set up Abby Wambach, Sinclair’s U.S. scoring rival, to tie the game, less than five minutes later.

It is easy to agree with Sinclair’s take that, “The result was decided before the match was played.”

Canada, exhausted and dispirited, pretty much lucked into the bronze medal, but will take it.

Meanwile, FIFA, an organization so corrupt it rivals the IOC (It, for instance, knew about two top officials accepting kickbacks for the award of FIFA contracts but took no action because in some civil jurisdictions bribery is, “not illegal,”  intends to punish the Canadians for stating what seem obvious, a U.S. appearance in the, “dream final,” (whose dreams, money people’s) was, “a culmination devoutly to be  wished.”

So, they are in it, kicking off in minutes as I write this. NBC, the IOC and FIFA will be smiling proudly throughout.

One final thought. Among the violations unpunished were several stomps on Sinclair’s dicey right foot by Americans emphatically, “Leaving the foot in.”

Sinclair is apparently not someone who you should annoy like that, given her dominating status at both ends of the pitch. Too bad she didn’t get the big stage of the gold medal final so the world could see how good she is.