FIFA, the international soccer body, has taken a big hit lately. Corruption, rumored for years, has come home to roost – 14 FIFA executives have been arrested recently and the news seems pretty bad.
Except in Canada, where the Women’s World Cup kicked off this week. No charges of corruption or bribery in the awarding of this tournament – no-one else wanted it. Before the thing is over a new record will be set for attendance – more than a million tickets have been sold already.
That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some controversy. People in Toronto have been complaining because none of the games are being held there. (People in Ottawa, which is hosting some games, instead complain that we don’t get to see the Canadian team. Other Canadian host cities are Moncton, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.)
There was also a big debate over field conditions. All the games are being played on artificial turf. For the men’s game that would be a non-starter. A number of female players sued, claiming sex discrimination, but dropped the suit as the tournament approached. They still feel like they are being mistreated, but they didn’t want to take the risk of not being allowed to play.
They may have had a point. Maybe FIFA didn’t want to pay the extra dollars to temporarily install real grass in the stadiums being used. Money does speak loudly after all. Organizers claimed the weather issue was the deciding factor.
The stadiums being used for the Women’s World Cup are not used to the number of games being played in such a short period. In Ottawa, for example, the preliminary matches are all sold as doubleheaders – two games the same day (for the same price – a nice deal). In sunny weather that is fine,, but if it rained a grass field would probably get all torn up, perhaps not as bad as for Canadian football, but there would be considerable wear and tear. A few days of rain and the field might become unplayable. That is avoided by playing on artificial turf. That’s the theory anyway. I leave it to you to decide if that explanation makes sense. The situation might not be ideal – but it is a level playing field, everyone has the same conditions to deal with.
Interestingly, at the games I attended Sunday they watered the turf before the game and between halves. The artificial turf isn’t going to grow, so I presumed it was to soften it a little bit. Or to try and control some of the dust. Yes, artificial turf seems a bit dusty. I don’t know why, but you could see it from the stands
I can’t comment on the competitiveness of the soccer (football) as both games I have attended so far were mismatches. Norway beat Thailand 4-0 in a contest that was nowhere near as close as the score indicates – the Thai keeper was superb and prevented a double-digit score.
In the other match Germany annihilated Cote d’Ivoire 10-0. If that had been Olympic ice hockey, and a Canadian team had scored like that, there would have been calls to end the sport as an Olympic event. In women’s hockey there is a huge gap between the best and worst teams. Looks like the same thing in women’s soccer, but the sport has greater acceptance than ice hockey, so I don’t expect here will be calls to eliminate the World Cup due to lopsided scores.
Canada has embraced this World Cup. There’s no hint of the FIFA scandal attached, just people playing for the love of the game.