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Regardless of the sport -- soccer, baseball, football, hockey or whatever -- there is a mantra yours truly follows: It's all about the players, it's all about the players. Sometimes you just have to wonder if FIFA gets it or really cares about the players, especially women players.
It's all about the players (regardless of gender)
10/03/2014
 
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Regardless of the sport -- soccer, baseball, football, hockey or whatever -- there is a mantra yours truly follows:


It's all about the players, it's all about the players.


Sometimes you just have to wonder if FIFA gets it or really cares about the players, especially women players.


At next year's Women's World Cup in Canada, all matches will be played on artificial turf, a surprising decision.


Just imagine the protests and comments if turf was used for the men's 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"I’m feeling like this is the women’s game taking a step back."
-abby wambach-

Well, you can listen to some of the leading women players who have filed a lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in Toronto. They feel there is a greater chance of injury on the artificial surface. Some 50 players from a dozen countries have backed the suit.


The list of players includes the USA striker tandem of Abby Wambach, the 2012 FIFA women's player of the year and Alex Morgan as well as midfielder Heather O'Reilly, Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, the 2013 FIFA women's top of the year, Brazil winger Fabiana da Silva Simões and Spain midfielder Verónica Boquete, Australia wingers Samantha Kerr and Caitlin Foord, Mexico striker Jackie Acevedo and midfielder-forward Teresa Noyola, among others.

"The gifted athletes we represent are determined not to have the sport they love be belittled on their watch," the players' attorney Hampton Dellinger said in a statement. "Getting an equal playing field at the World Cup is a fight female players should not have to wage but one from which they do not shrink. In the end, we trust that fairness and equality will prevail over sexism and stubbornness."


You would think.


FIFA, however, said that it has no plans to change its mind.


"There's no Plan B," FIFA's head of women's competitions Tatjana Haenni told the Associated Press.


That too bad because there can be a Plan B or Plan C.


It has been proven in the past that grass can be used over synthetic surfaces for men's matches in North America, of all places.


We first saw this innovation utilized at the 1994 World Cup, when a tray system was deployed for first-round matches at the Pontiac Silverdome (indoors of all places). The United States played there, earned a draw with Switzerland and there were no complaints.


Since then the process has been refined and costs lessened.


In fact, when many foreign teams comes to the United States for friendlies, Relevent Sports, which runs the International Champions Cup in several American cities during the summer, has covered artificial fields with grass for the world's top soccer clubs. Granted, the temporary pitches are for one, maybe two games, but there has to be way a way for FIFA to make it work in Canada.


Heck, if Relevent Sports can spend millions on temp grass fields that might be used for one, maybe two games, you would think that FIFA would, with all the millions (or perhaps billions it has nestled away somewhere), that the organization could use some of it for the a tournament that deserves the same respect as the men. It just doesn't make any sense, although it could save FIFA a lot of cents.


But it should not be about money. It should be about human rights, players' health and safety and just doing the right thing.


Of course, this wasn't the first time that FIFA scored an own goal concerning women's soccer.


Here's a rather embarrassing blast from the past:


In 2004, president Sepp Blatter made a rather controversial comment about women's uniforms.


"Come on, let's get women to play in different and more feminine garb than the men," Blatter told Switzerland newspaper Sonntagsblick in an interview.


When asked if he meant short skirts, the FIFA president replied: "No, but in tighter shorts for example. In volleyball women wear different clothes from the men.


"Beautiful women play football nowadays, excuse me for saying so."


Yikes!


Not surprisingly, Blatter received great condemnation from women's sports leaders and athletes.


"This comment from the most powerful man in football -- it's belittling and an awful shame," said Helen Donohue, then the Women's Sports Foundation's policy and research manager told by Reuters at the time.


"In the past, he's been quoted as saying 'the future is female' and he's been a great supporter of the game. Hopefully, he'll be more than embarrassed."


(At the time, a FIFA spokesman said the quotes were taken out of context from the interview).


And now we have the artificial turf headache.


“The game plays differently on artificial surface, not only because of the fear of injury but because it’s a different surface,” Wambach told Sports Illustrated earlier this year. “I’m feeling like this is the women’s game taking a step back.”


The game certainly took a giant step forward in the United States when Title XI was implemented in 1972.

Title IX allowed women's soccer to grow and develop in American colleges in the 1970's and 1980's, helping create an imposing U.S. women's national team that became the standard for international soccer success.


Now, American players and other nations are fighting for the right and their rights to have the Women's World Cup played on grass.


While certainly not the law in their world, you would think soccer's world governing body would try to follow the spirit and principles of Title IX, especially with the most important women's soccer tournament on the planet looming in nine months.


After all, it's all about the players, it's all about the players.

 
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