Growing up, my friends and I knew a guy who was always late. We’d agree to meet somewhere at some specific time, and all of us would make it their when we were supposed to. Except him. He’d show up a half hour or an hour later with no apology or excuse. He’d just stroll in as though nothing had happened. It would bother us for a while whenever it happened, but we’d eventually get over it; he was fun to have around and brought a dynamic to the group we all enjoyed – so no matter how angry he made us time and time again, we never really, fully called him on it.
My friend is a lot like FIFA – except he never appeared to be outwardly corrupt and never disparaged an entire gender.
The 2015 Women’s World Cup will be contested in just a few months, but it will be contested like no World Cup before it. It will be played on artificial turf, rather than – as almost every high profile soccer match is played – on natural grass.
For the last several months, a group of high profile female players have been fighting the surface switch in court, citing gender equality violations – arguing that because the Men’s World Cup has never and would never be competed on artificial turf, the forthcoming treatment of the women’s game violates a number of laws.
“[Using turf is] a blatant demonstration of FIFA not placing the women side by side with the men,” said U.S. National player and lawsuit plaintiff Heather O’Reilly in an interview with NPR. “You know, many men’s players refuse to play on artificial turf, actually, and the thought of it being played in the World Cup is almost laughable.”
She’s right. There’s no chance a Men’s World Cup would ever be played on such a surface, because of the way it changes the game.
“Slide tackling on grass,” she continued, “you know, you get up, you shake the grass off, get the dirt off. On turf unfortunately, a little layer of your skin comes up with every slide tackle so you get turf burns. Those diving headers that are so exciting on the world stage aren’t going to happen on artificial turf because you can get injured. So it changes the game quite a bit – one on the injury side. Two – it changes the game just on the soccer end. The ball just moves quite a bit faster on turf so you know, it’s out of bounds a lot, there’s a lot of throw-ins, things like that. And it’s also quite a bit more bouncy. It doesn’t roll as easily as it may on grass and it just loses the rhythm of the game and the fluidity of the game.”
On Wednesday, though, with the competition so close and with so little time to install grass fields had they won, the female contingent dropped their lawsuit. And FIFA won.
Because FIFA doesn’t care about any of that. They care about their money, and that’s about it.
They care about the $4 billion they made on the 2014 Men’s World Cup, and ensuring that their coffers are fully stocked. They care about keeping every penny of the $1.5 billion of reserve money they have sitting in some bank.
They don’t care about equality, or fairness, or what’s right, they care about making the most money they possibly can off their mont-long cash cow, and then they care about hoarding as much of it as possible.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter will tell you that the 2015 Women’s World Cup can’t be played on regular grass because the country in which the game will be played is not home to a climate in which grass can be easily grown.
The 2015 Women’s World Cup will be played in Canada.
Canada. Not Greenland or Antarctica. Canada. Which occupies the same latitude lines Russia does, where the 2018 Men’s World Cup will almost certainly be played on grass. Canada. With its average summer temperatures, in populated areas, between 50 and 90 degrees. Canada. With a climate far more reasonable than, say, Qatar – where the 2022 Men’s World Cup will, with no doubt, be played on grass – with its average July high of 106 degrees.
Canada. Where the climate isn’t the problem. Where money is all that matters.
If 2015 was the year of the Men’s World Cup, Canada’s harsh winters would be as little concern as Russia’s harsher winters or Qatar’s location on the edge of a freaking desert. If this was the Men’s World Cup, Sepp Blatter would personally be rolling out sod at these stadiums.
But it isn’t. It’s the women’s game. And who cares about them? Why spend money on them? Why spend money on the lesser of the two events?
If we’re being honest, we shouldn’t be surprised – as my friends and I should have stopped being surprised by that one guy who kept showing up late.
FIFA is an organization widely believed to be wildly corrupt. It is assumed that Qatar did not win its World Cup hosting duties; it is believed, instead, that it bought them. The FBI is currently investigating Blatter and his colleagues. The English Football Agency has kept, for years, a secret file on FIFA’s corruption and is currently sharing it with its parliament. Within the last five years, one official was forced to resign, and three others have been suspended for various ethics violations.
To all outward observers, corruption if FIFA’s chief export. It’s what it does. So we really shouldn’t be surprised by their lamentably transparent discrimination. We should just be disappointed by it.
Or maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe it won’t have that big an impact. After all, Sepp Blatter does have one plan to help women’s soccer – at least he did in 2004.
“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty,” the organization’s president said.
Author: Joseph White
Joe Bianchino is a writer, producer, and radio host located in upstate New York. He is a life-long New York sport fan, Chelsea supporter, and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBNTS. Email him at Joe@noticketsports.com.