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US Fan: Four-match Ban for Christine Sinclair is Far Too Harsh

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There are times when FIFA makes a decision that leaves some football fans shaking their heads in disbelief. This past Friday brought with it one of those times. Regardless of where you are from or the national team(s) that you actively support, I would like to believe that we can all agree on one thing: Justifiably criticizing a referee following what was the most controversial match of a particular tournament and using racist slurs against an opposing player are not equal crimes.

FIFA confirmed on Friday that Christine Sinclair, the Canadian women's soccer sensation who nearly carried her team to a historic upset over the United States during the 2012 Summer Olympics, has been given a four-match ban and also a fine. According to a statement released by FIFA, Sinclair was punished for "displaying unsporting behaviour towards match officials" following what some have called the greatest international women's soccer match ever played.

Sinclair stole the show on that summer day, netting a hat-trick that had her team a little over ten minutes away from a result for the ages. Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen then ruled that Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod held onto the ball longer than the allowed six seconds, a call that resulted in the US having an indirect free kick from inside the penalty area. The delivered ball struck the raised arm of a defender, Pedersen pointed to the spot, and Abby Wambach converted the subsequent penalty. Alex Morgan buried a header just as extra time was about to expire, a goal that propelled the Americans to a 4-3 victory.

The United States defeated Japan in the Gold Medal match. Canada went on to win the bronze.

Sinclair was obviously and understandably unhappy immediately following the US vs. Canada contest, and she made those feelings known to reporters. "We feel like we didn't lose, we feel like it was taken from us," she stated. "It's a shame in a game like that that was so important, the ref decided the result before it started." According to The National Post, it's not yet clear if Sinclair was suspended for those comments or for other comments/actions that came after the game.

Publicly suggesting that a match official "decided the result before (the game) started" is obviously a no-no. I understand that, and do believe that Sinclair had to receive some sort of punishment for her comments. It's the length of her suspension that irked me. FIFA's decision to ban Sinclair for four games came roughly two and a half weeks after Chelsea captain and former England National Team skipper John Terry was also suspended for four games.

Terry's ban came from the FA after that organization found the player guilty of using racist slurs against QPR's Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match.

Sinclair's post-game comments were unfortunate, but also understandable. As long as FIFA and football associations located around the world allow players and managers to be interviewed less than 30 minutes after such a game, it has to be expected that those individuals will speak their true feelings about any and all questionable calls made during that contest. Sinclair is human, after all, an athlete who had just suffered what will likely go down as the most emotional and heartbreaking moment of her career. I don't at all blame her for what she said right after that game. I can't imagine what would have come out of my mouth had I found myself in a similar scenario.

I'm not pretending that Sinclair was or is innocent. I'm just asking for a little common sense here. Unless we eventually find out that Sinclair literally assaulted the referee, her receiving a four-match ban and a fine is what my friends over at The West Wing would call "$5,000 worth of punishment for a 50-buck crime." I also can't help but wonder about the price difference that separates a gold medal from one that is bronze.

Is it greater or less than the amount of money Sinclair was fined?

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