TALES FROM A HIJABI FOOTBALLER

I smash assumptions.

7 notes

Turf Wars- Is Everybody In?

The countdown to the Women’s World Cup is underway with much fanfare. In less than eight months the greatest women footballistas will descend upon the Great White North and engage in a phenomenal tournament that will highlight the power and prowess of the women’s game. I, for one, can not wait. I intend to take my family for at least one match.

I am hardly an ardent supporter of FIFA and their blatantly sexist, cartoon of a President: Sepp Blatter. But I love this game, this beautiful game. And I will always advocate for women’s players, particularly those from all over the globe.

2015_FIFA_Women's_World_Cup_logo.svg.png

 

The process towards Canada2015 has not been a seamless one. I have been following the on-going saga with players rejecting the proposed stadium with astroturf labeled “Turf Wars” (do read the excellent Storify from Melissa Tan).

In the last few months so many major publications, ones that might not usually glance twice at women’s football (I’m looking at you Mainstream Media) have published pieces in support of the team of women and their campaign to play on grass at the Women’s World Cup (WWC) in what has evolved to become a gender discrimination lawsuit filed in Ontario, Canada.

I am in full support of gender equality on the pitch, the court, the filed, the mat or anywhere else. I applaud the intrepid footballers who are at the forefront of such a fight against an mega-organization (FIFA) that is shamelessly biased. Those players include FIFA’s Player of the Year 2012 Abby Wambach and 2013 Nadine Angerer.

image

Nadine Angerer (pic via FIFA.com)


I also firmly believe that gender equity in sport is not relegated to a country supporting a national team; but also fostering participation at coaching, administrative and fan base levels.

In addition to standing in solidarity with our other female athletes, offering support and guidance, we can watch the amount of players grow. And the game grows. It is enhanced. It is even more beautiful.  

 

Inclusion is critical as we move forward, particularly towards the most spectacular stage of women’s football.

 

But is are the Turf Wars inclusive? Do they represent the voices and priorities of many female footballers?

A few days ago I saw an alarming tweet. It was one that was asking to support the Head Coach of Trinidad and Tabago’s National Women’s Team, Randy Waldrum. He had tweeted a series of pleas requesting immediate assistance for his team that had arrived in Texas without any proper funding for meals, for snacks and no footballs. I was appalled. The humility and urgency of Coach Waldrum’s tweets made me sad and then angry.

How could the Soca Warriors, who wanted to qualify for the Women’s World Cup, be in such a terrible position?

As a women of colour athlete, sports writer and activist journalist I know the answer to this.

Inherently, there is little financial support and FIFA is a disaster. Also, does anyone really care?  Female athletes battle often battle a culture of sexism in football. They deserve their hard work and efforts to be respected.

Fortunately, the soccer community responded to Coach Waldrum’s requests and a PayPal account was established. They received incredible support from Haiti’s Women’s Squad. A team that has been powering forward and trying re-establish, train and garner support after a devastating earthquake in 2010.

Where were the major soccer stars offering public support for their comrades?

Busy suing the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA, perhaps. The fact that a national squad had nothing to eat, play on- forget about surface to play on- was mindboggling.

 

image

The Soca Warriors (pic via Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation)

Perspective is an interesting thing. So is privilege. It could be argued that in a sphere where there is so much injustice surrounding women’s sport, that any and every situation needs work and attention.

I am not discounting the importance of challenging Blatter and his FIFA ExCo croonies on their responsibilities and requirements.

But when the idea players are filing such lawsuits, when other players have no food, is a bit discomfitting. The majority named on the lawsuit against the CSA are high-profile, athletes from high-ranking teams such as the United States, Germany, Brazil and France. Unremarkably, there are no players from the Canadian women’s national team on this suit.

Other than an elite few, there is no representation or outpouring of support from other National Teams.

In fact, there are more voices of support from A-list celebrities and athletes than from other female footballers.

Women have as much right to expect to play on grass as their male counterparts. But the reality is that when some national teams have no food, equipment, and logistics, is the ‘war on turf’ an inclusive conversation?

Again, I am not downplaying the importance of FIFA to get involved and address the concerns and engage in solution-focused dialogue with players who have valid complaints.

The athletes spearheading the campaign are all established, recognized and receiving salaries, not meager stipends, have a supporter base and notoriety.

Will other teams such as the one from Trinidad and Tobago complain about turf when they don’t have soccerballs or lunch?

I see this is a complete failure of National Sports Federations, FIFA and a lack of understanding of the reality of women’s football. 

Just ahead of the last Women’s World Cup in 2011, the Canadian women’s team was embroiled in a public battle with the CSA about a salary dispute. The women, ranked 6th in the world, were receiving lower salaries than the Men’s team, ranked 76th at the time.

These are issues that need to be addressed. I am not absolving the CSA of prioritizing their female soccer squad who are frankly the more exhilarating and accomplished team.

Financial inequality plagues women’s sport. But privilege is also something that must be taken into consideration.

For a select few, the turf issue is the most pressing urgency as the Women’s World Cup approaches.

image

Abby Wambach and opponent from Guatemala (pic via The Ottawa Citizen)

Most recently, the lawyer’s representing the lawsuit have come up with a 3 million dollar plan that could resolve the issue of turf, by laying sod on top with in a specific manner.

Abby Wambach, a vocal member of the anti-turf campaign has emphatically stated :…the men’s World Cup would never be played on anything but natural grass. … And we deserve to be treated equally as the men”.

I might also add that all women, the best players in the world, should not only play on grass but deserve to eat lunch too.

Lastly, equality is sport is also advocating for women’s access and inclusion at basic levels. Not just for privileged female athletes.

Filed under football WWc2015 Canada 2015 turf wars privilege trinidad and tobago soccer grass astroturf equality gender equality sexism FIFA CSA