"Syd LeRoux, we stand with you," was chanted by a sellout crowd at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville, Mass in the second minute of Wednesday night's game between the Boston Breakers and Western New York Flash. It was a gesture of support to LeRoux, who wears number two for Boston, because she has been the subject of verbal and racial abuse from some Canadian soccer fans since she switched ties from Canada to the US women's national team.
Tension rose between LeRoux and some Canadian fans after she celebrated her goal in the US' 3-0 victory over Canada last Saturday in Toronto by shushing the Canadian crowd and flaunting her USA jersey.
The display caused some Canadians to take to twitter and launch more racial slurs. On Monday, LeRoux responded, via social media, tweeting, "When you chant racial slurs, taunt me and talk about my family don't be mad when I shush you and show pride in what I represent" and ended the statement with the hashtag "America."
LeRoux, who was born in Surrey, Canada, has a Canadian mother and an American father which made her eligible to represent either nation. And though she played for the Canadian U-20 national team in 2004, she switched to the US U-20s in 2008. She became officially cap tied to the US when she made her first appearance with the senior team during the qualification process for the 2012 Olympics.
But some Canadian fans didn't only use LeRoux's goal last Saturday as an opportunity to taunt the former Maple Leaf. LeRoux has had to endure a series of abusive personal and racial remarks both on the field and online since 2008.
LeRoux did not do any one-on-one interviews following Wednesday night's Breakers game, though she did release a statement which said that her goal celebration during the Canada friendly was "in the heat of the moment." The US Soccer Federation put forward a statement too, revealing that her tweet actually referred to racial slurs during the Olympic qualifiers in Vancouver in January 2012. The Federation also noted that at the time, LeRoux chose not to address the remarks.
It's not uncommon for a player to choose to represent a nation they weren't born in. In fact, Anna Picarelli, who was born in California and played goalkeeper for Pepperdine University, was snubbed by the US national team and opted instead to play for Italy. New Jersey-born Giuseppe Rossi plays for Italy as well and has actually scored twice against the US men's national team in a 3-1 win in the 2009 Confederations Cup.
So rules are in place for LeRoux to switch ties. What's baffling is that members of her home crowd in Vancouver (her birthplace of Surrey is less than 20 miles from Vancouver) would take to verbal abuse, no matter how displeased they were to see that one of the world's best young strikers would no longer represent Canada.
What's more surprising is that FIFA, soccer's international governing body, hasn't made a statement regarding the situation. Aside from soccer, FIFA's main concern seems to be eliminating racism around the globe. In the past, they have stepped in to defend players and fans against racism and have always advocated for the importance of human rights.
One problem is that FIFA only deals with formalities. Unless there is an official petition or request, the governing body will rarely get involved, whether that involves the rules of soccer, scheduling, or appeals. The fact that FIFA has not yet even made a statement begs the question of whether they keep an eye on such egregious displays.
If FIFA needs to be alerted in order to step in, something has to change. If the world's premier governing body truly wants to expel racism from soccer and beyond, they need to jump on every case as it crops up and dish out penalties. As it stands, it doesn't appear possible for FIFA to keep an eye on all of its 208 member nations that compete in its events.
In 2012, the International Olympic Committee should have stepped in on behalf of LeRoux and US Soccer, even if no formal complaint was made, as the qualifiers were its events. While FIFA recognizes Olympic events, it wasn't necessarily their administrative responsibility to get involved. But considering last Saturday's friendly was presided over by FIFA, the aftermath of the game should have elicited some kind of response.
In regards to the Olympic qualifiers, the Canadian Soccer Federation reiterated that neither LeRoux nor the US Soccer Federation filed a report. They also said they support fair play and do not tolerate any form of disrespect and are asking all Canadian soccer fans "to hold themselves to the same standards."
Meanwhile, LeRoux continues to be a scoring threat for the Breakers. She scored the Breakers' second goal against the Flash on Wednesday, firing a cannon from eighteen yards out for her league-leading fifth goal of the season.
"Scoring is my favorite thing in the world," said LeRoux, who will be part of the US team that will play South Korea on June 15 at Gillette Stadium. "Of course it made me feel a lot better. It has been a tough week, but the amount of support from fans, and from my teammates, and from US Soccer has been amazing."
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To our readers,
We've added a translation feature to the Corner Kicks blog to assist readers who may be more comfortable reading another language.
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David Beard, Editor, Boston.com