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Guest Post – Dear Mr Rattue

By Ella Reilly

William Green Domain

Dear Mr Rattue,

While in no way could I claim to be on the same level as the “dissatisfied women footballers of the world” who have called out FIFA on their decision to stage next year’s women’s World Cup in Canada on artificial turf, it needs to be said that I, and many others, am incredibly dissatisfied (to say the least) with your recent column in the New Zealand Herald.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the background, the column in question concerns a group of 40 women footballers to sue FIFA over its decision to stage next year’s Women’s World Cup on artificial turf in Canada – a decision which, rightly pointed out, would not have been made for the men’s World Cup, which has been played on grass since its inception. This amounts to gender discrimination.

Your comments below epitomise a number of issues with your argument.

“Leading women players are taking Fifa to a human rights tribunal alleging gender discrimination because men – they claim – would never be subjected to the same, which draws a wee giggle.

The men have indeed experienced weird Fifa behaviour, such as lumping them with a new and erratic football on the eve of a World Cup. They may also have to play in Qatar because … well, we won’t go there.”

As it happens, I don’t recall ANY women footballers or officials or journalists slamming ANY male footballers or officials or journalists for speaking out about the Jabulani ball or Qatar. Or denouncing those legitimate concerns the men may well have had regarding FIFA’s “weird” behaviour. But perish the thought that WOMEN might DARE stand up for themselves and call out bullshit when they see and experience it at the hands of FIFA. I’m not aware of the male players taking legal action against FIFA for these decisions, but given how ludicrous they were (particularly Qatar, but as you’ve already said, let’s not go there today), I don’t think there would have been a similar uproar from the female footballing fraternity as is currently being generated by commentators such as yourself. Additionally, it’s worth noting that there’s a bit of a difference between using a football with the predictability of a beach ball and playing on a surface that delights in the blood and flesh sacrifice of its users (see below).

Frankly, Mr Rattue, the attitude displayed in your piece suggests that these uppity women who dare stand up to FIFA should keep schtum and just be thankful that world football’s governing body has deigned to provide them with a tournament. Furthermore, your harking back to the ‘oh it’s genetics’ argument fails to hold.

Your condescending claim that women’s football is “just for friends and family” reveals more of a cultural attitude (your own) than a genetic reality. Entertainment value is a matter of personal taste: yes the women’s game is a bit slower and less physical overall than the men’s, but that doesn’t make it lesser. Just different.

I hate to state the obvious, Mr Rattue, but the “leading women players” who you couldn’t be bothered to name (for your information they include current FIFA Player of the Year Nadine Angerer of Germany, 2012 Balon d’Or winner Abby Wambach and her national team mate Alex Morgan, both of the USA), aren’t actually asking for something akin to a “bold new vision”. All they’re wanting is for the same opportunity as the men to play the sport that they’re supposed to be playing at its most elite level. That can’t be done on turf.

Playing football on turf as opposed to a grass pitch changes the dynamics of the game considerably.* It changes the bounce and run of the ball, for a start. But more importantly, playing on turf is considerably more dangerous than grass – the stress placed on joints when running and turning is greatly increased . And anyone who’s fallen on grass and fallen on turf will tell you that it’s a completely different (more painful) experience.

How many serious friction burns have you seen come from playing on grass versus playing on turf? The premise of this question begs another – who would want to slide tackle on turf that is known for ripping skin? But you bemoan that the women’s game lacks the physicality of the men’s. Playing on turf is unlikely to be conducive to those wishes for reasons I’ve outlined above.

You treat the women footballers speaking out about the situation as if they’re asking for the world. That couldn’t be further from the reality of the situation.

The world’s top female footballers shouldn’t be expected to “set up their own world football organisation” in order to do that. The Women’s World Cup is a chance to demonstrate how far the women’s game has progressed. Moreover, the players themselves just want to play decent, world class football and to showcase their talents to the world in conditions and on a surface that enables them to do so.

Last time I checked, that wasn’t a domain reserved just for the men. With or without grass.

Yours sincerely,
Ella – A Dissatisfied Woman Footballer

*Don’t get me wrong, turf has its place in local sports – in urban locations where there isn’t a real alternative, or in climates where local, community football pitches resemble dust bowls rather than little grass oases on which to stage a kick around, for example. But there’s a massive difference between local league and the World Cup.

Useful links:

Chris Rattue: Women footballers can’t fight genetics



[Ella Reilly is a long suffering yet admirably devoted Nottingham Forest and Ingerland supporter who both plays for and is Club Secretary of Waiheke United AFC.]

Categories: Other Football Topics

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.

8 replies

  1. I also think it’s poor of FIFA to treat the men’s and women’s world cup on different levels but I also have to disagree that turf clearly causes more injuries – 1st Generation turfs were dangerous and caused injuries but the now 3rd gen pitches are just as safe as a premium grass field and safer than a poor quality grass field.

  2. Good to see someone else putting the boot into the writter who cant be bothered doing any research before he writes, good for you, great artical.

  3. Leaving aside the danger element as I suspect Tim is correct, the simple fact is that you shouldn’t expect elite athletes to play on a different surface to what they normally do. It is also about time the players took on FIFA and the constant brain-fades. I don’t think FIFA is simply sexist – more ignorant money focussed egotists who may also be sexist.

  4. I have no time for a journalist who continues to refer to football as “soccer”. Rattue should absolutely stop reporting on football altogether. I do disagree with Ellas comments regarding the quality of the artificial pitches – it smacks of a player who lacks experience playing on the artificial surface. As a player, it provides a surface of quality, true bounce and speed. I appreciate playing on artificial pitches and if that means some skin on the surface – then so be it. I also benefit from playing playing at Colin Maiden Park as a member of University Mount Wellington – probably the best grass pitches in Auckland. Qatar and FIFA are red herrings in this story – it is all secondary to playing the best game in the world on a quality pitch.

  5. I don’t think anyone is arguing that turf isn’t perfectly fine at NRFL or ASB Premiership level but for those extolling its virtues here answer me this: how would you feel if FIFA announced that Russia 2018 will be played on turf? And if turf is so great, why don’t they play the men’s World Cup on it? Or the English Premier League??

    1. Hi Enzo,

      I don’t know this for sure but I’m aware that there is the possibility some games at Russia 2018 could be on artificial.

      Without taking on the sexist nature of the issue at hand and only focusing on turf vs grass fields I believe that most people would prefer to play on grass whenever possible as long as it’s a good quality grass field.

      It would be silly to build an artificial over a really top notch grass field unless there was capacity issues or maintenance cost issues.

      However in some places due to certain factors they just can’t get a grass pitch to the level it needs to be at unless they spend bucketloads so at that point turf becomes an option.

      For me with the new gen turfs they are an option at ALL levels of football in the future, and that might even be at a men’s world cup at some point soon, if it’s good enough for the women’s world cup then it’s good enough for the men’s one.

      Fyi Chris Rattue is an idiot

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