Sinclair, Swedes speak out for sorrowful Seger

7 Aug 2021
  • Caroline Seger missed a penalty that would have won Olympic gold for Sweden

  • Europe’s record appearance holder described the outcome as “brutal”

  • Rivals Christine Sinclair and Stephanie Labbe among those who rallied in support

Today, the football world is celebrating a veteran captain and record-breaking icon who ended her long wait for a gold medal.

And Caroline Seger will know that this role could, and should, have been hers.

The Sweden skipper is not, of course, the first great player to miss a decisive penalty in a global final. Nor will she be the last.

But if there was anyone the Swedes would have wanted in a gold medal-winning situation with tension peaking, it’s a player whose whole tournament - and entire career - has been built on coolness, class and composure. And if Seger didn’t look nervous stepping forward, it’s because she wasn’t.

Later, she would describe the opportunity to take that fateful kick as “absolutely fantastic”. “It’s something you dream of your whole career, being given the chance to walk up and do something like that,” she said.

The script, it seemed, had been written for her. The very name Seger translates as ‘victory’ in Swedish. “It was a perfect story,” said her coach, Peter Gerhardsson. “But football isn’t a tale; it’s reality. And reality is brutal.”

Caroline Seger of Sweden misses her penalty in the women™s football final during day 14 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Olympische Spiele, Olympia, OS on August 6, 2021 in Tokyo.

That same vivid adjective - “brutal” - was applied to the situation by Seger herself, and team-mates were quick to rally round their inconsolable captain.

Magdalena Eriksson, her vice-captain, lauded her as a “fantastic: a fantastic player, a fantastic person and a fantastic leader”. “She leads by example with everything she does and she’s been one of my role models ever since joining the national team,” added the Chelsea defender.

Rivals, too, joined in this outpouring of warm and evidently genuine praise. Stephanie Labbe, Canada’s penalty-saving heroine, just happens to be a team-mate of Seger’s at FC Rosengard. And it’s clear that their time together has been an education.

“I knew she was an icon in Swedish football but I’ve come to realise what an amazing leader and incredible person she is,” said Labbe. “I see the power she has on those around her and how she can inspire people. I absolutely love playing with Caroline.”

Western New York s starters. Front row (l to r): Marta, Brittany Bock, Becky Edwards, Ali Riley, Rebecca Moros. Back row: Candace Chapman, Caroline Seger, Christine Sinclair, Ashlyn Harris, Alex Morgan, and Whitney Engen.

Sinclair also has a long-standing connection to Seger, having played alongside her in a legend-laden Western New York Flash team that also included Marta and a young Alex Morgan. And though it seemed for a time last night that nothing could wipe the smile from the Canada captain’s face, the mere mention of her old friend’s name did just that.

“My heart really does break for Caroline,” Sinclair told FIFA.com. “She’s a fantastic player, absolutely world-class, and she’s done so much for football in Sweden and around the world.

“She’s not just an old team-mate of mine – she’s an old room-mate; we shared an apartment for that year in New York. And it’s very tough for me to see her go through that – to see a friend, and someone I have so much admiration for, hurting as much as she is now. But I know Caroline and she’s strong. She’ll be ok.

“This will hurt her, and it will hurt for a long time,” Sinclair added later in the press conference. “But she can hold her head high because she’s an absolute legend.”

As the old phrase goes, it takes one to know one. And just as no-one could begrudge Sinclair her golden fairy tale, it is impossible not to sympathise with this Swedish tragedy’s underserving protagonist.