Gender discrimination by FIFA for the Women's World Cup

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By CAROLINE GAZZARA
College Contributor Network

On Wednesday, Oct. 1, NBC Sports broke the news that several female soccer players have filed a lawsuit against FIFA for gender discrimination. Over 40 players from across the National Women's Soccer League are up in arms about where the 2015 Women's World Cup is going to be held.

It wasn't the fact that the tournament will be held in Canada, or that it will be held in multiple Canadian cities across the country. The players are upset that they will be competing on artificial turf fields, something that they say the men would never compete upon.

Artificial turf fields are aesthetically pleasing, offering the same look of normal fields but are very different. Instead of the grass being secured by dirt, the artificial grass is secured by thousands of tiny pieces of rubber. The point of the artificial field is for the field to move with the player, however, there is less stability with an artificial turf field than there is with a regular field. Artificial fields have also been to shown to lead to a higher rate of injuries.

During this past year's FIFA World Cup, the men played on natural fields. In fact, the Canadian team refused to compete on an artificial field for a qualifying match -- this is the source of the women's lawsuit.

To sum up the suit, it states that FIFA is discriminating against the women's teams by refusing to even hear their complaints about playing on an artificial turf field. The organization issued the statement that they would play the Women's World Cup on turf and insisted "there is no plan B."

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of criticism in not just soccer but in almost every sport. From football to basketball to baseball and even hockey, all the leagues are coming under fire for inadequate treatment of either players or family members or even teams. People want to reform and reestablish the bylaws and rules of each sport, they want to see change and see that the people competing are also protected and fairly treated.

But when it comes to this lawsuit, the players are asking for the same equality that FIFA gives the men's teams. Is it fair to let one World Cup play on natural fields but not the other? What was the reason behind this decision?

Despite the fact that FIFA is staying mum on the entire situation, one thing is sure -- the women aren't backing down. And they shouldn't. Why should they compete on fields that have a higher rate of injuries than a regular field? Is it right that they have been complaining about this for months but the board hasn't budged?

It's one thing to complain about the potential injuries and issues that come from playing on an artificial turf field but it's another thing to allow one gender what they want but not the other. Even though it's the 21st century, there are far too many instances where one gender is misrepresented and pushed aside.

In September, U.S. Women's National Team star Abby Wambach spoke out about the lawsuit and the situation. Wambach has been at the center of the suit, fighting for equality in both World Cups.

"It's about doing the right thing, and I think this is the right thing to do," Wambach said to ThinkProgress in September.

"We have to fight this fight for this World Cup and World Cups in the future. We have to make sure FIFA knows this is not OK. And they know it's not OK. If you were to ask all of them, they know that they would never do this for the men."

There are a lot of what-if's, name calling and "he said, she said's" going on as this case develops. The women of the World Cup are calling for change. And they won't stop until they get it. It would be nice to see FIFA look at the issue and act upon it but if they won't, it may take the men's teams to step in and say something.

Safety should always be a priority, and that is the only thing that really matters. So, whether it is for the Men's World Cup or the Women's World Cup, gender shouldn't matter. Safety -- and the basic respect it reflects -- is what's important.


Caroline Gazzara is a junior at the University of Alabama majoring in Sports Journalism. Her passions are Alabama athletics and soccer. Follow her on Twitter: @CarolineGazzara
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