Don’t blame CSA for sexism in Women’s World Cup: blame FIFA

January 22, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Posted in General Football, Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium | 3 Comments
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For some time now a number of top players in Women’s football, (Abby Wambach, Marta, and other notables) have accused FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) of sexism because of the plastic playing surfaces to be used for the Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015.

Is there a villain here? If so, who is it?

In my view the CSA is not the villain. The CSA had no intention of being sexist when it put its bid in. Quite the contrary, there is no doubt in my mind they have every intention of hosting a great Women’s World Cup on behalf of Canada.

By the same token, and whatever their intentions, by playing virtually all of the matches on plastic surfaces, the CSA will be putting on a World Cup that is undoubtedly inferior to previous Women’s World Cups played on grass. If the CSA is guilty of anything, it is naiveté. The sad fact is that most Canadians (including the CSA) are so out of touch with football reality they believe plastic grass is just as good as natural grass. The attitude seems to be that if it is good for gridiron football, it must be good for real football. This is dead wrong.

Wambach et al are absolutely correct in their allegations of sexism where FIFA is concerned. FIFA would NEVER contemplate having a men’s World Cup on anything other than the best grass playing surfaces. In spite of FIFA’s claim that a men’s World Cup would be played on artificial surfaces “sooner rather than later”, there is no doubt in my mind that the world’s best footballers would boycott such a World Cup, and their domestic teams would put huge pressure on their players not to participate.

In spite of “evidence” that there are no more injuries when football is played on plastic grass than on real grass, none of the World’s best football teams or players has ever accepted this. Having played football extensively on both types of surfaces, it is clear to me that plastic grass is absolutely brutal on the body. You feel as though you have been in a car crash for days after playing on it. Furthermore, plastic grass fundamentally changes the way the ball bounces and runs, making the game far less attractive to watch as a spectator, and far less enjoyable for players to play on.

I have never heard of any professional footballer who prefers playing on plastic playing surfaces, such as Polytan or Fieldturf, to playing on natural grass. Anyone who claims plastic grass is better or just as good as real grass as a playing surface either has a vested interest in the issue or does not know anything about football (yes, I am speaking to you, Richard Farley!). The fact there is a plan to install a new playing surface with longer fake blades of grass at BC Place does not remedy the issue: it is still an inferior surface. I am tired of these mad alchemists who think they can create something better than grass to play football on.

Asking professional footballers to play on plastic grass is rather like asking the musicians in a symphony orchestra to play with inferior instruments made of plastic. While it still might sound better than the rest of us would, something would still be noticeably wrong. The musicians would be royally pissed off, just like Major League Soccer star Robbie Keane is when he plays in our city on plastic grass against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place. Give the players what they want: a natural grass playing surface. Then they can perform at their highest level.

As usual, the villain here is FIFA. To repeat: FIFA would NEVER allow a nation to host a men’s World Cup on plastic grass. The only reason it is allowing it in this case is FIFA’s perception that the women’s World Cup is not as important as the men’s World Cup. To FIFA, the concerns of players who are women are not as serious as those of male players. If it was Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi complaining rather than Abby Wambach, the complaints would be taken very seriously by FIFA. FIFA is not taking the women players seriously because they are women. FIFA has been dismissive of Wambach et al rather than addressing their very serious and legitimate concerns. My regret is that Wambach et al have not threatened to boycott the event altogether.

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal will not be making a definitive ruling, since the players have now dropped their complaint, but is there any real doubt that FIFA is guilty of sexism?

Given what we know about FIFA, an organization of dinosaurs, is anyone really surprised?

Fake grass blights Pacific Northwest soccer

December 28, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Posted in General Football, Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2012, Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium | 2 Comments

The Pacific North west has always been a bit of a soccer hotbed. Back in the NASL days Portland, Seattle and Vancouver were three of the strongest franchises. Even when the NASL disappeared, PacNorthWest football culture stayed strong, just below the boiling point. The addition of Seattle to Major League Soccer showed the love of football is strong in the region, and now the PacNorthWest is at a boiling point, with two other MLS franchises prospering in Portland and Vancouver.

With attendances soaring in Seattle and Portland, and Vancouver not so far behind, who would find anything to complain about? Unfortunately there is one major thing which is holding back PacNorthWest soccer: it is fake grass, otherwise known as FieldTurf. All three Pacific Northwest MLS franchises are currently playing on the stuff.

The problem with FieldTurf in Portland and Seattle has been recently highlighted by the fact the US National team would dearly love to play in front of such magnificent support in Seattle and Portland, but do not want to play on it. Instead, they want to lay a temporary grass surface over the FieldTurf. One commentator, Richard Farley of NBC Sports ProSoccerTalk, has said they should just play on the FieldTurf surfaces. He says “there is nothing wrong with Portland or Seattle’s fields.”

How wrong Farley is. Anyone who knows the game of football knows that FieldTurf is really no substitute for natural grass where professional football is concerned. I have never heard any top player express the wish to play on FieldTurf over grass; rather, they universally express contempt for FieldTurf.

There are a number of reasons why the World’s top clubs travelling through North America insist on playing on grass, and won’t play on FieldTurf. Such clubs include Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Celtic and others who refuse to play on the stuff. Why? Because it is not worthy of play at the top levels of the game. They feel it threatens their player’s careers and exposes them to muscle and ligament damage. Anybody who has played a game on FieldTurf knows the toll it takes on the body. While there is no doubt FieldTurf is better than the Astroturf of old, the world’s best teams are right about all of these concerns.

There is a reason why we missed seeing David Beckham in 2011 and Thierry Henry in 2011 and 2012 in Vancouver: both players were nursing minor injuries and did not want to aggravate them by playing on FieldTurf. If we had a proper grass pitch, we might well have seen them.

As a spectator of football, FieldTurf fundamentally changes the game and diminishes it as a spectacle. There is simply no substitute for grass when football is played at the professional level. FieldTurf is fine for amateurs, or in countries where weather conditions mean there is no alternative, but the skill of footballers at the top level is only to be appreciated on grass. Watching the best footballers on FieldTurf is like watching Formula 1 genius Michael Schumacher driving a stock car on a formula 1 track. We know the driver is brilliant, but we are never going to see that brilliance in a stock car on a formula 1 track.

While I love football so much I would watch it played on virtually anything, as a fan of football there is a huge difference in how the game is played on grass as opposed to FieldTurf. It is simply a game better played on grass.

With the fan support Pacific Northwest teams enjoy in MLS, and with the fantastic growing conditions we have, there is no excuse for having professional soccer on fake grass. Surely the goal of all three PacNorthwest MLS clubs must be to play on natural grass pitches. If not, the region will be stunted in its football growth and will never attain anything near the greatness of the world’s top clubs.

It is time for FieldTurf apologists to stop trying to sell us a bill of goods. It is time for commentators like Farley to wake up and see the truth. Stop trying to tell us this nonsense that FieldTurf is just as good as grass, or even nearly as good as grass. I really don’t care if FIFA has approved it for qualifying matches either. It is simply not as good as grass for the professional game, nowhere near, and we fans of the Pacific Northwest deserve better.

Give PacNorthWest football fans what we deserve: proper grass pitches. Then we might watch the standard of football we deserve.

Traveling Into the Heart Of Enemy Territory

May 27, 2010 at 5:08 am | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2010, Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium | 1 Comment

I am afraid travel has taken me away from  three Whitecaps games.  I missed the matches against Montreal, Toronto and Rochester.  I am not too upset because two of them were 0-0 draws.  I did miss what I hope is a breakout match for the Caps, a 2-0 win against Rochester. I certainly was disappointed to miss the TFC match… Frankly that is my favourite fixture all year.

I travelled to Toronto and Montreal and got a look at the stadium sites for both cities from the air.  It made me reflect on how far Canadian soccer has come in the last 5 years or so, and the future looks bright. All we need here in Vancouver is a soccer specific stadium, which we will have to be patient for. While Montreal and Toronto will toil away in soccer specific stadia with grass surfaces, we will be on fieldturf in a generic stadium. Still, we can’t complain, it will have to do for now.

TFC stuff was everywhere on view in Toronto, but in Montreal you could be forgiven for thinking the Impact did not exist.  I saw more gear on sale for the defunct baseball franchise, the Montreal Expos, (I bought myself an Expos cap!) than I did for the Montreal Impact. With the coming of MLS however, I am sure this will change. Yes, Canadian footy has come a long way and promises to go much further.

The ironic thing about my trip was that after missing three home matches, who did I see walking through the airport in Montreal while I waited for my flight home to Vancouver? Teitur and the Vancouver Whitecaps themselves, walking by as if to mock me for missing so many games.

Sorry, lads, I’ll try not to do it again!!!

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