The initial surprise and push-back against the Canadian Soccer Association’s decision to play the 2015 World Cup on an artificial surface has died down.
Whatever thoughts there were about a protest involving the top players in the world seem to have, at the very least, quieted down in the background. Up against a determined FIFA, the women can be forgiven for not believing that they have much of a chance.
Really, other than refusing to play in 2015, what can they do? Any boycott would need the support of the federations and there is no evidence of that happening.
Abby Wambach might be willing to speak out, but the USSF is not saying anything. The former is a brilliant player, but the latter has the real power here.
It’s even more pronounced in Canada, where none of the top players have spoken out against the turf. Why would they? They have a once in a lifetime opportunity to play a World Cup at home and it’s naive to think that they’d be willing to risk that over turf.
Because realistically the end game of a successful protest against playing on turf would see the tournament pulled from Canada and moved to a place where there are ready grass fields.
Switching the plans in Canada to install grass playing surfaces now would require a cash infusion. Getting that would require a grassroots push in Canada that simply isn’t there and will never be there unless the team spoke out.
We’ve already been over why that won’t happen.
However, there is one caveat: if Canadians can be shown that the decision to play on turf is discriminatory towards women then maybe the CSA can be shamed into changing.
Make no mistake: at its root this is an issue of gender inequality. There is no way that a men’s World Cup would be played on turf at this time. The Canadian men refused to even play qualifiers on turf and the CSA accommodated them by playing all six home games at Toronto’s BMO Field (which is grass).
Yet, they are making the women play a World Cup on it?
Why would the CSA act in such a way. The answer to that probably has to do with desires on the men’s side as well.
Late last year the CSA quietly let it be known that they will be bidding for the 2026 Men’s World Cup (click here for the most recent details). The bid isn’t as absurd as it seems on first glance. By the time 2026 rolls around CONCACAF will be way overdue to host and Canada is the only realistic choice in the region amongst countries that have not hosted before.
It’s big, rich and has traditionally hosted major international events well. Since FIFA gave the World Cup to Qatar, it’s clear that strength of the national team program is secondary to their concerns, so scratch one big negative off of Canada’s slate.
The other negative is stadiums. Canada would have to build stadiums if it were to host the men. The country has the money, but for the political will to be there, they would need to find a way to ensure they aren’t white elephants following the tournament.
The way to do that is to tie them into Canadian (or possibly in Toronto’s case American) football stadiums. Gridiron is played on turf.
Thus, the CSA wants to prove to FIFA that a senior World Cup can successfully be hosted on turf.
In essence, the women are being used as guinea pigs.
The dots all connect. Whether it’s obvious enough to enough people to create a groundswell of demand for change is unlikely, however.
So, for better (and mostly) worse, players and fans alike had best start to prepare for a plastic World Cup.
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