It was the greatest game in women’s football history. The Canadian national team was playing the United States in the semi-final match of the 2012 Olympic Games in Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England. The home stadium of one of the best rival derbies in men’s football was fittingly the scene for one of the best matches of all time. The American superpower was facing the modest Canuck squad, yet the rivalry created by border countries was stronger than their respective FIFA rankings displayed.
Christine Sinclair was one step ahead of the Americans in every piece of the match, putting the Canadians up again after each chasing attempt of the Americans tying up the game. In the 76th minute, the Canadians were up 3-2 and Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod held the ball in her box. With “Captain America” Abby Wambach shouting in the referee’s ear like a fruit fly swarming a day old lunch, the Swedish referee blew the whistle for an indirect kick a mere 12 yards from the Canadians goal post. Tobin Heath tapped the ball with her toe on to the foot of a well-timed one step shot by Megan Rapinoe, curling mid-height to the far post. Canadian defender Marie-Eve Nault, a reserve player who earned a jersey earlier in the tournament due to a hamstring pull from starting fullback Robyn Gale, jumped to reach the curling ball mid-way between the free kick spot and the goal line, the ball grazing her arm as she twirled in the air in an attempt to block the shot.
The referee’s whistle blew. Little did she know this would be the most important call of her international refereeing career, but also the call that would travel the North Atlantic Ocean, catching speed along the way.
Abby Wambach was awarded a penalty kick. Her plan had worked. She was face to face with the Canadian goal, and soon to be an Olympic Gold medal game against the Japanese.