Soccer–or football, as the rest of the world calls it–is widely regarded as the beautiful game, being that it is the most popular game in the world. It brings people together and unites fans all over the world. Sadly, from time to time, there are a few ugly situations that occur in soccer both on and off the field. Unless you’ve been under a rock, and have absolutely no interest in soccer, you would know one unfortunate thing that happened this summer, with the Summer Olympics, was Hope Solo’s press conference, where she made some unsportsmanlike comments.
Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that Hope Solo is someone who has had significant impact on the sport. She has two Olympic gold medals, one women’s world cup, seven Algarve cups, two CONCACAF cups and multiple individual accolades in addition to International and Club appearances.
Trying to book a place in the semi-finals and take a step closer to the gold, the United States Women’s National team battled Sweden in the hope to overcome them. Sweden came out tactically, and played an excellent defensive and possessive game, knowing that the current world cup holders would come out strong, to chase even more glory. Eventually, with the game ending in a 1-1 draw, penalties ensued, and at that point, it was anyone’s game. Unfortunately, the U.S. got knocked out, and during the press conference after the game, Solo did not hold back in expressing her feelings towards the Sweden Women’s National team.
During the interview, she referred to the Sweden side as a group of “cowards”, to which Sweden’s coach, Pia Sundhage, comically replied, “It’s okay to be a coward if you win”.
What ensued was heartbreaking to Solo fans as the 35-year-old veteran received a suspension from national selection for six months, and is currently no longer a member of Seattle Reign FC. Her comments struck a nerve. U.S. soccer president, Sunil Gulati, said that her comments were “unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our national players.” He goes on to say, “beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.”
This isn’t Solo’s first sanction, as in 2015, she received a 30-day suspension due to her conduct as well as an issue with assault in 2014. People have protested, saying that Solo is being treated unfairly because she’s is a woman, and to bolster the claim, groups have considered other sanctions given to male players.
People have compared this to the case of Uruguayan Striker Luis Suarez. Suarez, one of the most prolific strikers in the world, is no stranger to controversy, as his three month ban for biting Giorgio Chielinni two years ago was brought up. Solo advocates believe that the punishment should fit the crime, and people have taken to social media to express that if violent conduct, such as biting another player, was treated with a fine and a three month ban, surely Solo should not be given twice the time, especially when no violent conduct occurred here.
Another case that people have quickly cited was the case of Chelsea-legend and veteran- defender John Terry. Terry, a few years ago, got issued a fine and a short term ban for racially abusing a player on the field during a game. After being sanctioned by the Football Association, and missing a few games, Terry was back in action. Advocates for Solo who cite this case, believe that surely, Terry’s should have warranted a longer ban compared to what Solo faces, but unfortunately, it is not so. With the level of social media today, the world has chimed in one way or the other, reminding people that this is on the international level, while the other cases cited are on club levels. As such, they are handled by different people. Regardless of which side one may stand on regarding the entire issue, one thing is certain; fans, teammates and certainly Solo herself are saddened with this much longer period being out of action. Teammates Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe equally shared disappointment. Morgan said, “it’s a bummer that that happened to one of my teammates, but at the same time, I don’t agree with the things that she said in the Olympics.” Rapinoe said, “I’m really disappointed, to be honest. That’s not our team, that’s not what this team has been and that’s not what this team will be in the future. It’s frustrating at times as an athlete, when you are thrust into the spotlight.” Rapinoe went on to say, “When we find ourselves on the other side, we need to handle that graciously and unfortunately that wasn’t the case”.
Looking into the future, one can only use this as a lesson to learn, that respect is necessary in all fields of sports and on Solo’s side, one can only appreciate her commitment and passion as she has fought for women’s rights, and is a highly experienced player. She is currently a free agent, after leaving her previous club , Seattle Reign FC. Going forward, will she retire, or will she come back into the National team and the club level? Keep your eyes peeled, because we will have to watch, wait and see what happens from here on out.