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