2015 Women’s World Cup: Should artificial turf be used at the tournament?

Following the events from the 2011 Women’s World Cup which was held in Germany, the 2015 event has been shaped up as a must see experience. But the tournament and its organisers have been plagued with criticism after the announcement that five out of the six stadiums being used to hold the 52 matches have artificial turf.

If some of you reading don’t see the big deal in this decision, I will break it down for you.
Artificial turf first made an appearance at the Houston Astrodome where it was first installed in the 1960s. Ever since that day, artificial turf has caused many controversies. Many athletes have seen either a pause or the end of their careers due to injuries which have occurred on artificial turf.

Not only is the risk of injury high on artificial turf, but the turf also affects the state of play due to the synthetic texture. A U.S. study has concluded that artificial turf causes more than 40% of knee injuries rather than on natural grass, most of these including injuries to the ACL.

USWNT defender Ali Krieger suffered both an ACL and MCL tear during the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers. Funnily enough, this injury occurred in one of the six stadiums chosen to play the 52 matches of the 2015 World Cup and yep, you guessed correct – it was also on artificial turf. The #11 was victim of a reckless tackle and due to the harshness of the fall and the way she landed, the artificial turf caused a larger impact on Krieger than if she were on natural grass.

This is a very relevant example as it shows the harsh effects of artificial turf upon football athletes. Also, the artificial turf affects the way the game is being played. Such as the ball bounces higher and irregular, some studs often gets caught in the synthetic turfs and, depending on resources, if the ground is too hot, it can cause severe carpet burns to players.

US football star, Abby Wambach, has voiced her opinions in various interviews and states her displeasure and frustration about the decision.

“For me, the first thought is disappointment” stated the US star. “I’m feeling like this is the women’s game taking a step back”.

The Women’s World Cup, due to be held in Canada in 2015, is a little over 2 years away and US Football star Abby Wambach has declared that it is enough time to hopefully change the minds of the event’s organisers.

There’s enough time from now until then to sort this out, to talk with FIFA, to get the right people in charge so that this doesn’t happen,” Wambach said. “We’ve worked so hard as female athletes – not only here in the United States, but internationally – to grow the game and in my opinion I think this is taking a step back. All of the men’s international players around the world would argue the same point. A lot of these guys will not play on an artificial surface because it is an injury-prone surface and I don’t blame them.”’

“All we ask is to be heard. We believe this is a shame not only for the players but for the fans. The game plays differently on artificial surface, not only because of fear of injury but because it’s a different surface. You can also talk about it being a gender discrimination issue. Would they ever let the men’s World Cup be played on an artificial surface?

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes. There are standards that FIFA governs and promises to uphold. I think (a World Cup with artificial turf) would be a travesty and a nightmare for all of us”.

Wambach.... voiced her opposition over FIFA's controversial decision.

Wambach…. voiced her opposition over FIFA’s controversial decision.

FIFA had once banned the use of artificial turf but, as of late, as “resurrected” their interest in the turf. Proving that the turf is within FIFA recommendations, they have allowed clubs to lay down the synthetic grass.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has even states that artificial turf is “the way of the future”.

Various petitions have been made and one made by coworker.org has already exceeded 1000 signatures. These petitions are also publicly backed by football stars such as Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Sweden’s Lotta Schelin and Caroline Seger.
If Thierry Henry can refuse to play on artificial surfaces, especially the one in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, then why can’t the women also succeed?

We all know artificial turf is also a cheaper option to natural grass but surely an association such as FIFA can scrap around for money so that some of the greatest female players around the globe can compete at a tournament friendly environment. The final is also going to be held on artificial turf and this is the FIRST EVER World Cup Final to be help on artificial turf. The question being raised by many female superstars, if men can make the decision and have a say against artificial turf, then why can’t they?

“At the end of the day it comes down to money,” Abby Wambach has stated after the FIFA announcement.  “If FIFA really wanted to have games on grass, they would; it would just cost more. They would lay the sod down for the tournament, get it to stick and if the stadiums had artificial surface prior, then you replace it with artificial surface after the tournament is done.”

“As a soccer player we would all rather play on grass fields. My biggest concern is the injuries. It takes several weeks to recover from playing on [artificial] turf. It’s bad on your joints, not to mention all those rubber pellets. Those pellets are there to help you slide, sometimes in the grass there’s no rubber pellets and your foot can get stuck and that’s when injuries can happen. I just don’t want soccer getting to that point where everybody’s playing on artificial turf.”

Carli Lloyd has quickly backed her American counterpart as she quotes on Twitter:

“Had a nightmare that the 2015 World Cup was going to be played on turf! … Wonder if the men’s World Cup would ever be played on turf? … Always more injuries on artificial turf. Bad enough we played our 2012 Olympic qualifying games on artificial turf. Never thought about WC.”

Fans have also expressed their opinions about the weird decision for what is the biggest stage for women’s football, especially after the success the women’s game had at both the 2011 WWC and the 2012 London Olympics. But some don’t see the problem.

“I don’t see a problem with it as long as they’re in good condition”. – @YL_CFC

US Soccer have also set the USWNT’s next home friendly against South Korea at Gilette Stadium, which has relatively bad artificial turf, during the teams stretch to have the decision changed. Ironic?


Written by Siobhan Pedroza

Follow Siobhan on Twitter @briefcase_wanka

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