By Rob Ficiur
This weekend Canada’s Christine Sinclair scored on a penalty kick to give Canada a 1-0 win in their opening game of the Women’s World Cup of Soccer. 2015 is the first time the Women’s World Cup of Soccer has been held in Canada.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup began in 1991. The Men’s World Cup began in 1930. Both tournaments are held every fourth year. This year is the first time tournament has been held in Canada. In the previous six tournaments the USA and Germany have won two each with Norway and most recently Japan claiming the other championships. The highest Canada has ever finished is fourth in the 2003.
Christine Sinclair’s goal on opening night was the 9th goal in World Cup competition. That ties her (with two others) for ninth in all time World Cup scoring. Sinclair, now 31 years old, has scored 154 goals for Canada in 224 International games.
The opening game drew over 50,000 fans at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. For loyal Canadians hoping that home field advantage will bring Canada its first ever World Cup medal, history is not on our side. In the previous six tournaments only two host countries earned any medal at all: The USA won Gold in 1999 and Bronze in 2003 as the host. The four other hosts did not make the semi-final round. Likewise in the last twelve men’s tournaments (since 1970) only West Germany (1974) and France (1998) have won Gold as the host of the men’s tournament.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup will give soccer fans an entire month to focus on soccer (football to most) not on the scandal that rocked the organization. Three weeks ago bribery, corruption and tax evasion chargers were laid against top executives with FIFA by the FBI and IRS. Days after the charges, President Seth Blatter was re-elected for his fifth four year term as FIFA president. Blatter’s election was quite decisive, getting 133 votes from the 209 countries. Blatter promised he was the man to clean up the organization that he has run since 1998.
It was nice to see that Canada was among the countries who voted against the re-election of Mr. Blatter. I was dumbfounded that with a scandal erupting the week of an election that the majority supported the leader who was in place when the alleged bribes took place. If Mr. Blatter was not guilty of bribery itself, then the criminal acts that took place around him show he was not aware of what was happening. Neither scenario made him seem like the right man for the job. It was interesting to see Mr. Blatter blather on about how the United States Soccer Federation had arranged to have the charges against FIFA leaders be made the week of the election.
Less than a week into his new four year term Seth Blatter resigned as FIFA president. Rumors abound now that he is about to have bribery charges laid against him as well. Those who follow FIFA soccer more closely say that allegations of bribery and kickbacks have been rumored for years – but no one at the top of FIFA did much to stop them. (and why would they if someone was giving them brief cases full of money).
It will take years to sort out the truth. Who took bribes? Who paid the bribes? Did Qatar get the 2022 Men’s World Cup through legitimate channels or not? While lawyer and liars work all this out – soccer (football) fans can watch the game they love – knowing their sport will live on long after the disgraced FIFA leaders have long been forgotten.