EDMONTON — When Ukraine referee Kateryna Monzul pointed to the penalty spot deep in stoppage time of Canada’s Women’s World Cup opener, several Chinese players rushed towards her to argue the call.
Zhao Rong, whose elbow to the head took Canadian attacker Adriana Leon down, not surprisingly had the most to say.
There was some heat — Canadian captain Christine Sinclair slotted home the ensuing penalty for a 1-0 win — but it was relatively mild compared to the antics of the men in the Champions League final earlier Saturday between Barcelona and Juventus.
When a goal by Neymar was denied due to a handball, the Brazilian striker and his Barca teammates went at the goal-line official who made the call like sharks drawn to chum. Every decision seemed to attract a finger-wagging, pained facial expression or group confrontation.
The women’s game seems head and shoulders above their male counterparts when it comes to treating officials. The Canadian women may show their opinions via outstretched arms or a pithy comment, but they don’t make a meal of it.
Long may it last, says soccer officials who applaud the women’s no-nonsense approach.
“From my experience, the ball is in play a lot more. There is less simulation,” says Canadian World Cup referee Carol Anne Chenard, who took charge of the Germany-Ivory Coast game in Ottawa on Sunday. “The women are there to play hard and they play fast. Some of the things, like the mass confrontation and the simulation, historically hasn’t crept into the game.
“But seeing some of the matches and some of the leadup tournaments, there has been a little bit that’s starting to come into the game. And I hope we can stop that. It’s not only a refereeing thing, but it’s also from the coaches and administrators as well. I hope that we can keep the game clean, how it is.”
There is plenty of contact in the women’s game. Tangling with teenage Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan can definitely leave a mark and midfielder Desiree Scott has earned her nickname the Destroyer.
But the women usually just pick themselves up, rather than roll around like a fish out of water.
Still Tatjana Haenni, FIFA deputy director of the competitions division and head of women’s football, has also seen some worrying signs that the women may be following the men down the behaving badly road.
“Yes, unfortunately it makes me a bit sad,” Haenni, a former Swiss international, said prior to the tournament. “And that’s why I keep saying it, because maybe I’m too philosophical or too much of a dreamer, but I would hope we can keep the women’s game from that perspective, the way it is because it’s fair, it’s nice, it’s nice to watch. Spectators say ‘That’s the big difference, why I love it.’ It’s no simulation, no spitting, no aggressivity between the players towards the referee.
“I have so many dreams and positive things about women’s football for the future because I’m sure it will become professional, it will become better and bigger,” she added. “But my worry is that we will start to see some of the negative issues from men’s football also in women’s football.”
The Champions League finalists, however, still managed to show their class on and off the field. The teams applauded the officials as they went through a guard of honour to get their medals. And the Barcelona players did the same for Juventus when it was their turn.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press