Different Scores: The Fight for Equality in Women’s Soccer

January 21, 2015

It’s just 37 words, 37 clunky words hiding inside a large education bill, 37 words that didn’t seem to be substantial at the time, 37 words that would change everything:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Title XI of the Education Act opened athletics to females in 1972. Yet here we are 43 years later and females are still fighting for equal rights in their sport.

It’s tough because as female athletes we want to be treated equal and we want to play on grass. The men’s World Cup was given brand new stadiums, brand new venues all throughout Brazil, and all we’re asking is for a greater surface to play on. ”

— Abby Wambach

One of the most popular sports among females in the U.S. is soccer. The U.S. Women’s National team was founded in 1985, and from 1987-1999, the number of girls aging 6 or older participating in soccer increased by 30% to reach a staggering 8.3 million. Despite its female popularity rate, women have not been given the same opportunities as the men who play the same sport.

A recent controversy in the soccer world is the fight for the 2016 Women’s World Cup to be played on turf,  as opposed to it being played on grass. It may not sound like a big deal; however, it puts players at a greater risk for potential injury. Playing on turf can cause increased wear and tear to the bodies of players and increased collisions caused by players fighting for control of a bouncing ball on a concrete like surface. The main point being brought to FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) is that playing on turf would never be acceptable for a major men’s tournament. Therefore, it shouldn’t be acceptable for a women’s tournament either.

Last Wednesday, a lawyer representing several of the biggest stars in women’s soccer announced they had filed a lawsuit at the human rights tribunal of Ontario. United States players Abby Wambach, Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Germany’s Nadine Angerer, Brazil’s Fabiana Da Silva Simoes, and Spain’s Veronica Boquete are among some of the major names to sign on the lawsuit.

U.S. Women’s National Team member Abby Wambach told FOX Soccer, “It’s tough because as female athletes we want to be treated equal and we want to play on grass. The men’s World Cup was given brand new stadiums, brand new venues all throughout Brazil, and all we’re asking is for a greater surface to play on.” Even Canadian forward Christine Sinclair agreed with Wambach’s position saying, “I would prefer every game of mine to be played on grass, it is how the game is supposed to be played.” Grass is the way the game is meant to be played on for many different reasons including safety, the beauty of the game, and most importantly, the longevity of the players’ careers.

This is an issue of FIFA regulations, money, and discrimination on the basis of gender. The men’s World Cup will never be played on an artificial surface.These athletes are the highest-level of international players, and they have a responsibility to see that they don’t take steps backwards.This would be a huge change in  terms of the way the game is played and a change in the way the fans watch the game.

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