[dropcap size=small]D[/dropcap]espite a petition from some of the world’s top women’s players like Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Nadine Angerer, the 2015 Women’s World Cup (hosted by Canada) will be played on a turf field. The women are threatening FIFA with legal action if the organization doesn’t reverse its decision and allow the tournament to take place on grass.
Why has the artificial playing surface prompted petition, the demands, and the legal action?
Says Wambach, “It’s a gender issue through and through.”
It matters to the top players (to any player, really) if a soccer field is composed of turf instead of grass. The ball performs differently on turf: it rolls faster and straighter, and it bounces higher. Turf is unforgiving on bodies, too, with falls and slides resulting in the worst sort of rug burn. Concussions are more likely. Players feel the differences and adjust their actions accordingly.
“I’m not going in for a diving header [on turf]…no way,” Wambach told a New York Times reporter.
To put it simply, turf changes the game, and the players are protesting against the sort of dainty play that a turf field requires.
Changing venue or surface a year out requires some financial investment; however, it seems likely that FIFA’s expected profit from high-level tournaments could go toward ensuring that the women play on grass instead of turf. FIFA was expected to make $2 billion off the World Cup in Brazil, so they’re not exactly struggling to make ends meet.
The clear disadvantages to turf highlight the absurdity that the world’s top women’s soccer tournament is scheduled to be subjected to an inferior playing surface. It’s the manifestation of a larger gender inequality issue.
Explains Wambach, “This being the pinnacle of our sport, we feel like we should be treated just like the men.”
Read more: New York Times, Aug. 12, 2014, “With Turf, Women See Unequal Footing.”