The USWNT coming off of a World Cup victory this past summer in Canada made a choice last Sunday to not play a friendly in Hawaii due to what they considered dangerous training and playing conditions. This left some ticket holders in Hawaii a bit upset, but after hearing the player's concerns US Soccer backed the ladies for their decision to boycott the match. A number of the team members took to social media to provide evidence for why the decision was made. An ACL tear to winger Megan Rapinoe in a training session hours before the game fueled the ladies to make a decision even more so, with the injury coming on a grass pitch that was quoted to be "equally poor" by commentator and former World Cup winner Julie Foudy. This decision was one that was long over-due and one that should make a statement to the global community that the safety of the players, needs to come first in all instances regardless of what is at stake.
Julie Foudy's tweet shows the poor condition of the playing surface in Hawaii
We all recall the Women’s World Cup last summer, the drama in the semi final rounds, the dominance of the USA in the final, and the backlash and unpopularity regarding the artificial playing surfaces before the tournament. Some of the major stars of the tournament, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, and Hope Solo voiced their opinions about playing on artificial turf. A surface that may supply a consistent surface throughout the pitch, but has numerous flaws. It allows the ball to bounce extremely high if it lands from a kick or punt from the keeper due to the cement foundation the turf sits on and somewhat due to the new aerodynamic technology in the lightweight balls used during FIFA matches. The surface also allows the ball to run extremely fast, so a ball not played with precision accuracy to a teammate will simply run out of bounds or to an opponent. Not to mention when a player slides or falls, the turf is very unforgiving causing burns and scrapes, especially if the surface is as worn as the pitch in Hawaii appeared . There has also been numerous studies done to the danger of cutting and turning on turf which may lead to an increased chance of ligament tears, a danger female athletes face more regularly than their male counterparts.
So my radical stance on the matter going into last summer’s World Cup was why play if you feel the pitch is not safe? As a professional player in my 20s I would not play anytime I felt the playing conditions were unsafe, as my safety and overall health is more important than any game of soccer I will participate in. Of course it is easy for me to say this not having ever come close to even making a World Cup squad, let alone be chosen to play in one for my country. The financial benefits of playing in a World Cup are potentially massive for the participants who likely make much less than they should playing professionally in the NWSL. So I can see why they made as much of the problem as they could, but in the end played in tournament for their country despite the lack of a response from FIFA regarding their concerns.
Riding the success of the World Cup, having played numerous friendlies over the last few months on their celebration tour, and having cemented their names in the public eye as celebrities in the women’s game, the USWNT members now have the leverage to make the bold decision they made last Sunday. To demand a playing surface that is not only safe, but exceptional. Surfaces that are world class and would meet the demands of the men’s national teams, FIFA’s cash cows. So a tip of the hat to our women’s team for taking action in hopes of receiving equal treatment from the governing bodies of international football in regards to pitch standards. Unfortunately the stand came at the expense of a long term injury to Megan Rapinoe, but nonetheless the demands were made and hopefully in the future will be met at the threat of more boycotts when the training and playing conditions are not held to the ladies standard.