FIFA 'sticking to' artificial turf for 2015 Women's World Cup

Top female players have taken their protest over artificial turf at the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada to FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke. U.S. forward Abby Wambach says they talked "openly, candidly" but "FIFA has made their decision and they are sticking to it."

Players take concerns to secretary general

U.S. forward Abby Wambach discussed the latest on FIFA's turf stance for the Women's World Cup prior to the Ballon d'Or Gala in Zurich. (Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

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.

American forward Abby Wambach and Germany midfielder Nadine Kessler met a FIFA delegation Monday ahead of the women's top player award announcement 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 action filed in the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

A lawyer for the rebel faction of women said a counter-proposal was also made to FIFA — that the 2015 Canadian tournament be played on artificial grass until the semifinals, third-place and final matches.

The proposal calls for temporary natural grass surfaces to be installed at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton and B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver for those four games.

Lawyer Hampton Dellinger said FIFA had apparently wasted little time rejecting a proposal that would have settled the dispute.

"The battle over the use of plastic pitches at the women's World Cup can easily and quickly come to a peaceful resolution," he said in a statement. "All FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association need to do is accept the players' feasible, affordable, and more than fair deal. FIFA and CSA have no legitimate excuse to reject the players' proposal and, if they have, I urge them to reconsider."

However, Wambach suggested an effective campaign by women's players would have needed to start sooner and with players included in FIFA's decision-making.

"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 Moncton, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.

"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."

With files from the Canadian Press


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