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?

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