Women’s World Cup Archive

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PLASTIC PITCH 4 is out today!

10349900_1008071179208840_1372189140274955851_nIssue 4 of Plastic Pitch is out today!

What will you find inside?

• We profile Canadian keeper John Smits, winner of the NASL’s Golden Glove award;

• We sit down with Desiree Scott to talk about her decision to leave NWSL for England, and how she feels about Canada’s preparations for the Women’s World Cup

• Canadians in indoor soccer; a look at the Milwaukee Wave and its Canadian coach, Giuliano Oliviero, and its Canadian star player, Ian Bennett. And we look at how the new Major Arena Soccer League could finally stabilize the pro indoor game in North America

• We look at the birth, successes and trials of League1 Ontario.
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Teams visit WWC sites: Commonwealth praised, BC Place blasted

“The turf in Vancouver, in my opinion, is not good enough for the World Cup.”

PHOTO ABOVE: Dutch coach Roger Reijners, Australian coach Alen Stajcic, Swedish coach Pia Sundhage, Swiss coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg

The days following the Women’s World Cup draw has seen the coaches and managers of the 23 visiting teams travelling throughout Canada and checking out the venues.

Managers from Sweden, Switzerlands, the Netherlands and Australia were at snow-covered Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Tuesday. Organizers were able to plow out a strip of turf from underneath a heavy blanket of the white stuff so the coaches could actually inspect the playing surface.

All four of the managers said they are making preparations for a World Cup played entirely on turf. The Dutch played all of their home qualifiers on turf and will play all upcoming friendlies on turf, said coach Roger Reijners.

But Swiss coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said that the venue that will host the World Cup final simply isn’t good enough. She said that Commonwealth’s turf is just fine — and the turf is good quality. But the Polytan surface she saw at BC Place worried her.
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Round one to the CSA: Human Rights Tribunal co-chair won’t rush the turfgate case

fwwc2015_oe_4ct_lThe Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has rejected a plea to expedite its hearing of the grass vs. turf case.

A group of women’s players, including Americans Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach, Germany’s Nadine Angerer and Japan’s Yuki Ogimi had petitioned the HRTO to hear their plea against the use of artificial turf fields at the 2015 Women’s World Cup. The Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA have defended the use of the artificial-turf fields, while the women’s players named in the suit (a total of 15 on the document) wanted to speed the case forward in hopes of getting a ruling in favour of grass in time for it to have an impact on the WWC.

The CSA’s lawyers have stated that they doesn’t feel the HRTO has the jurisdiction to rule on a Women’s World Cup, as five of the six venues being used in the tournament are located outside of the province of Ontario.

On Friday, HRTO co-chair Jo-Anne Pickel rejected the players’ plea to expedite the case, basically killing any chance to have it heard in time to have a meaningful impact on the WWC.

She wrote that, as expedited cases put all other matters before the HRTO on the back burner, it would be unfair to all the other applicants. It would be unfair of the HRTO to delay other cases of racial, workplace and/or gender discrimination to accommodate the players.
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Turfgate: FIFA’s Valcke affirms that a men’s World Cup could be staged on turf

fifa-logoIn an interview/press release posted on FIFA.com, FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke said that a men’s World Cup played on artificial turf could be organized sooner rather than later.

More of Valcke’s statement:

“By the way, for many years now, any organizer of a FIFA event — irrespective of whether it be a men’s or women’s competition, including the men’s World Cup – has had the right to propose for the tournament to be played on artificial turf, provided that it is of the highest quality and the same playing surface is used for all venues and training sites. It could well be that sooner rather than later the men’s World Cup will also be played on artificial pitches. The Canadian Soccer Association proposed for the tournament to be played on artificial turf based on the fact that most sporting infrastructure in Canada is on artificial turf, primarily due to the extreme climate in the host country. It would be very difficult to ensure solid natural-grass pitches at all venues. As has already been explained, this is not a question of money, or of differences between men’s and women’s events, but it is a matter of the natural conditions in Canada: We want to guarantee consistent top-level playing conditions for all 24 teams during the event, both in the official stadiums and at the training sites. This has been the sole reason behind the decision to play on artificial turf from day one.”

This statement is an important one. While no doubt many will scoff at the notion of a men’s World Cup being played on turf — and will say that Valcke is simply playing politics — this statement from a top FIFA official carries weight. Why? The legal team representing the women’s players who are taking the CSA to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario claim that their clients are being asked to play their World Cup on turf, when it’s something FIFA would never ask of the men. But FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association can now say, “if it’s good enough for women, it’s good enough for men.”
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It’s oh so quiet: Japan trounces Canada in front of disappointing crowd

A photo of the, ahem, announced crowd of 9,654.

A photo of the, ahem, announced crowd of 9,654.

I hate writing soccer-attendance stories. They remind me of the times I used to have to lobby and lobby editors to give a soccer story a little more space, or any space at all.

So, just the writing this column is making me owly and growly.

On Saturday, the Women’s World Cup champions from Japan came to Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium to play the Canadian women’s national team. The friendly was announced months ago — and, outside of the rivalry with the Americans, is probably about as “tier one” a matchup as the Canadian Soccer Association could arrange.

The Japanese and Canadian players came out to see a heck of a lot of yellow and green empty seats. In a city that is hosting more Women’s World Cup games in 2015 than any other, a visit from the reigning champions of the world was greeted with indifference. A stadium that holds a little less than 60,000 welcomed an announced crowd of 9,654 who watched the Japanese march to a convincing 3-0 win. But, to the naked eye, it looked like the actual number of bums in seats was much lower than the announced attendance. Half of the stadium was closed to fans. Only 10 sections had fans in them, and they were maybe two-thirds full. Each of those sections has 45 rows, with 16 seats per row. That’s 10 X 45 X 16 = 7,200. And those sections were two-thirds full — so maybe, at best, 5,000 fans in the stadium.

Goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who hails from the area, saw the glass as being half full.

“I heard (before the game) that we had 8,000 sold,” she said. “So at first I was like, ‘huh,’ but, you know, looking at the stadium today, it looked pretty full on the west side. Of course, we always want more but a part of it is us putting on a good game. There were lots of exciting parts to this match. So, hopefully, they were happy and they will come back for the World Cup.”
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Desiree Scott is open to Notts County return after Women’s World Cup (PLASTIC PITCH preview)

Desiree Scott in Notts County colours

Desiree Scott in Notts County colours

(Look for the full Q and A with the Destroyer, Desiree Scott, in the winter issue of Plastic Pitch. Issue 4 should be out in December. For info on how to get Plastic Pitch, go to the end of this post).

Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott won’t be returning to pro soccer until after next year’s Women’s World Cup.

She’s committed to Canada’s eight-month training camp ahead of the Women’s World Cup, and she’s devoting her time to the national-team cause. That includes Saturday’s friendly against Japan at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and the Oct. 28 rematch against the World Cup champs at Vancouver’s BC Place.

But, once the tournament ends, Scott says she will give a Notts County return some serious consideration. In 2014, Scott, who was one of the Canadian players in NWSL who had her salary paid by the Canadoan Soccer Association, decided to leave the U.S.-based league for England. She started 20 games for Notts County in England’s WSL — and certainly caused some waves by making the decision to leave NWSL for an English league that mixes part- and full-time players.

Still, if Notts County wants her back after the Women’s World Cup, chances are that she’ll listen.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said Friday. “Right now, my focus is on the World Cup. I will be full-time with the national-team leading up to that. But, after the World Cup, the options are open. But I did really enjoy it in England and, yes, I would go back. Right now, the plan is to be with the national team, full-time. We are devoted to World Cup prep; and hopefully to raise that trophy on July 5th. I will decide what to do (professionally) after that.”
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Canada vs. Japan: Hard to dislike the World Cup champs

Erin McLeod PHOTO BOB FRID/CANADA SOCCER

Erin McLeod PHOTO BOB FRID/CANADA SOCCER

Sure, when it comes to rivalries in women’s soccer, the Americans are at the top of the Canadian totem pole. They are the ones we, as Canadians, love to hate.

So, as the Canadians women’s national team gets set to face the World Cup champions from Japan twice in the coming week, you can’t expect there to be a war of words. Really, the series of friendlies sorta feels like we’re inviting a well-respected friend and the kids over for a playdate.

Canadian keeper Erin McLeod was at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Fieldhouse to help conduct a clinic for local minor soccer players and, after, she spoke of the challenge of playing the Japanese.

“They are so tactically disciplined, I think it will be a wonderful match for us,” said McLeod. “They are wonderful opponent, they are so well organized, we can’t afford any slip-ups for the entire 90.

“I think Japan reminds me of Germany. Germany is always so very organized and so is Japan. You saw in the World Cup, it was incredible what they did. It was after the tsunami and they really brought a nation together, so the spirit and the heart that team has, we won’t overlook it.”
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Turfgate: Canadian Soccer Association will argue Ontario tribunal has no right to rule on Women’s World Cup venues in other provinces

fwwc2015_oe_4ct_lThe Canadian Soccer Association and its lawyers are prepared to argue that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has no jurisdiction to hear a complaint that the use of turf surfaces at the 2015 Women’s World Cup is an example of gender inequality.

That’s because the HRTO is a provincial body, not a federal one. And, because five of the six venues for the Women’s World Cup are outside of the province of Ontario, the question is why the HRTO would hear the case in the first place. The final will be held at BC Place in Vancouver. More games will be held in Alberta — at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium — than any other host city. So why hear the case in Ontario?

Sean Hern, a lawyer with the Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP firm that’s representing the CSA, says it’s the legal question that his side will press at the tribunal. In a conference call held Wednesday, he said it is “unclear how tribunal would have jurisdiction over playing surfaces and stadiums in another province.”

In the minds of the CSA and its lawyers it’s “likely” that the HRTO does not have jurisdiction over what goes on in other provinces, and Hern says it’s a matter that will be argued.

A group of elite women’s players have applied to the HRTO to hear their pleas for the 2015 WWC to not be held on artificial turf. They claim it’s a second-class surface which causes more injuries than playing on grass. But the CSA claims that turf surfaces designated as FIFA two-star are first-class, and are allowed by the sport’s governing body.
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The elephant in the room: CFL is the forgotten partner in the Women’s World Cup turf-vs.-grass debate

imgresWhen it comes to the looming legal action against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association over the decision to stage next year’s Women’s World Cup on artificial turf surfaces, there are some rather large elephants in the room who are choosing to remain quiet.

And those are the Canadian Football League teams. They stand to have further disruption to their seasons if the owners of the multipurpose stadiums being used for the WWC would have to tear up the turf and lay down grass.

On Friday, a deadline imposed by the lawyers for U.S. star Abby Wambach and her cadre of anti-turf allies went by. All FIFA did to, ahem, mark the occasion was to publicly confirm that an independent company has been hired to ensure that all of the game and practice fields in the Canadian host cities will meet the highest standard for artificial surfaces (CLICK HERE). So, the next step would be for Wambach and co. to follow through on their threats and take the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA to task through a human-rights tribunal or, maybe, eventually to court.

Now, I’ve read through the legal briefs, and I’ve gone through a lot of the pro and con articles out there. But, one thing no one talks about, whether it’s from Wambach’s group or those who say we can lay down grass and then pull it up (CLICK HERE), is how it affects the other users of the stadiums.

There is definitely an arrogance out there amongst the anti-turf crowd; because the movement has been spurred outside of Canada, they have very little idea about the stadiums being used. They don’t seem to understand that these are shared, multipurpose facilities. In 2014, the Canadian Football League was quite accommodating, having the Edmonton Eskimos clear out of Commonwealth Stadium in order for U-20 Women’s World Cup matches to be played there. Next year, the sacrifices will be greater; the Ottawa RedBlacks, the Eskimos, the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will all have their seasons affected.
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FIFA to send independent company to “ensure” quality of Canada’s Women’s World Cup turf

fifa-logoFIFA is going to contract an independent inspector to ensure that Canada’s artificial turf fields are indeed good enough to host a Women’s World Cup.

After the Executive Committee wrapped up its meetings in Zurich, FIFA made this announcement: “Regarding the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada, the executive ratified the decision to assign an independent company to travel to Canada in order to test pitches and training fields to ensure they fulfil the FIFA quality requirements.”

The Canadian Soccer Association says it will not make any comments about the timing of FIFA’s announcement, as this was a directive that the Association already knew about. It confirmed that the process of vetting the fields has actually already begun. Surfaces in Edmonton and Moncton are already approved. The goal is to have approval of the match surface and two training fields in each of the host cities.

American star Abby Wambach is leading a group of elite women’s players who have launched legal action against the exclusive use of artificial turf at next year’s Women’s World Cup. They claim the use of turf is a case of gender bias, as no men’s World Cup has ever been staged on artificial turf.

FIFA approves the use of artificial turf for international matches, as long as the surface meets FIFA’s star-rating system.
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