Wambach takes World Cup turf protest to FIFA’s Valcke
ZURICH – Top female players have taken a protest against artificial turf at the World Cup in Canada to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, though with little hope of success.
United States forward Abby Wambach and Germany midfielder Nadine Kessler met a FIFA delegation Monday ahead of contesting the women’s player award at the Ballon d’Or ceremony.
Wambach said at the players’ official FIFA news conference that they talked “openly, candidly” with Valcke, but did not expect natural grass pitches to be approved ahead of the June 6 kickoff.
“I think FIFA has made their decision and they are sticking to it,” the 2012 FIFA player of the year said. “The powers that be, the logistics, the timing – it just may not happen.”
“It’s tough because as female athletes we want to be treated equal and we want to be playing on grass,” Wambach said.
Wambach and Brazil forward Marta, the third candidate for the 2014 player award, have supported an anti-discrimination legal action filed in a Canadian court.
Canada wants to host the men’s 2026 World Cup – possibly bidding against the U.S. and Mexico – when a proposal to play on artificial turf is unlikely to be made, or have a chance of winning.
However, an effective campaign by women’s players would have needed to start sooner and with players included in FIFA’s decision-making, Wambach suggested.
“If we had better dialogue over a year ago, two years ago when these decisions were really being made maybe we could have put together a coalition sooner to fight this,” she said.
FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said Valcke had promised, at the meeting, to include players more in future discussions.
Protests by players now seem unlikely to be a distraction at the month-long, 24-team tournament, being played in six cities.
“We are not going to get into the World Cup environment and continue to talk about it,” Wambach said. “That is something that will take our attention away from what our real goal is, and that is raising the trophy at the end.”
FIFA has insisted artificial turf does not affect the quality of play or increase the risk of players sustaining leg injuries.
Wambach challenged that view Monday.
“I know I’m going to be a heck of a lot more sore after the tournament, that’s for sure,” said the 34-year-old Wambach, who has played in three World Cups and has to yet to win the trophy.
“It is sad because it will be my last World Cup and I really, really would love it to be on grass.”
© 2015 The Canadian Press