Thursday, May 26, 2011

When fair isn't fair: Vancouver screwed in Canadian Championship second leg

I was at the game and I can tell you the game was unplayable after a while.

Wednesday May 25th, in the 29th minute, Vancouver Whitecaps forward Eric Hassli curled a low left footed shot into the bottom corner of Toronto FC's goal in the second leg of the Voyageurs Cup final, it seemed they were on the way to their first Canadian title....Then the skies over Toronto opened up.

The lightning struck closer and closer to BMO Field and the pitch became so badly water logged the match had to be abandoned after 62 minutes. The question on everyone's mind was "What now?"

Hassli's goal made the aggregate score 2-1 in favour of Vancouver, and with away goals counting double, it could have well won the match and the cup. The fair thing in most people's mind was a replay starting at 1-0; or call the leg completely and hand the cup to the Blue and Whites. The rules written by FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association said something completely different in mind. Rule 27 subsection F stated:

27. f. If the match is interrupted before the completion of normal playing time or extra time (if required) because of extreme weather or for reasons outside the control of the host team, a repeat match lasting 90 minutes shall be arranged for the following day, thus avoiding the considerable extra expense for the visiting team. If it is still impossible to play the match the next day for the same reasons, the match may be postponed by another day, provided both teams agree. If the match can still not be played on the third day, the expenses thus incurred by the visiting team shall be split between the two teams

When reading the rule at first it seems a simple interpretation; that is until you understand that "repeat match" in this case meant the game would start at 0-0, making Hassli's potential winning goal irrelevant. Is it fair? According to the CSA and FIFA it is, to Vancouver it's a joke and it's hard to argue against them.

Toronto had the majority of possession and were creating chances, but it is the what ifs that strengthen the west coast team's case. If the game had not been stopped, and if Toronto had not scored, Vancouver are champions and heading to  CONCACAF Champions League. Therefore in true fairness the replay should start 1-0.

It is one thing to have a replay, but it is another to nullify the results of the previous unfinished game as if it never happened. The advantage is back in Toronto's court in which they can go back work on the things that didn't go well with a lead on aggregate as they scored the away goal in the 1st leg. It's a huge let off for the defending champions were we facing another poor result at home.

As for Vancouver they are left to stew over a game they were winning and a cup that (for now) has eluded them for a fourth straight year. Who must wonder what if at least until the replay on July 2nd.


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