The deranged run-up to the 2015 World Cup leapt over another ridiculous bar on Monday, with lawyers for a group of prominent players claiming FIFA has threatened retaliation over a lawsuit filed last month. That claim, one that seeks to keep next summer’s event from being played on artificial turf, is expected to be heard before the end of the year, giving both sides a few more weeks to ramp up their crazy ahead of a possible conclusion.
If you’re not keeping up on the case, a.) I’m kind of jealous (because this has become tiresome), but b.) there’s a lot to unpack here, so allow the magic of bullet points to get you up to date:
- Canada, the only nation to complete the bidding process, was awarded the 2015 World Cup;
- Most of the tournament’s venues feature some form of artificial turf, making the 2015 finals the first senior-level event to be planned for something other than grass;
- Players don’t like this;
- After trying to talk to FIFA, the players lawyered up, decided to pursue action through a human rights tribunal in Ontario, presumably concluding the province’s anti-discrimination laws gave them the best chance to score a victory;
- What that victory would mean, however, is unknown. If the panel in Toronto sides with the players, it’s unclear that would compel FIFA or the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) to install grass at the tournament’s venues.
Now, even before that case has been heard, FIFA’s allegedly threatening players, saying pull out of the lawsuit or pay the price.
According to The Equalizer, that price ranges from sitting out the World Cup to seeing your country miss out on hosting it in the future:
“Lawyers state in documents that FIFA threatened to suspend [Mexican international Teresa] Noyola from the recently completed World Cup qualifying event because of her participation in the legal action. Mexican officials allegedly then indicated to Noyola that she would not be selected for the tournament if she remained part of the legal action. Mexico qualified for the World Cup on Sunday in a match in which Noyola played.
“[French internationals Camille] Abily and [Élise] Bussaglia were allegedly “led to believe that their continued participation in this legal action would lead to retaliation by FIFA in the awarding of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.” France one of a few nations bidding for the 2019 tournament.
The players’ lawyers have done a great job of getting their message out, keeping outlets like The Equalizer in the loop. FIFA, on the other hand, has largely ignored the issue, going so far as to refuse to accept legal documents notifying them of the case. Now we get word FIFA is actually concerned about the action, but that concern comes in the form of a soccer “offer you can’t refuse.”
This whole thing is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous that FIFA and the CSA want to stage this on turf. It’s arguably more ridiculous that the players have acted like this is a hate crime. But now, topping all that, is FIFA’s picking up crowbars when it could just as easily say “meh, we’re playing the tournament, no matter what. Come if you want.”
That’d still be a dick move, but at least it’d be consistent with the underlying message: Playing on decent turf (and it does need to be decent, Vancouver) is just not that big of a deal.
That message wouldn’t solve the main problem — that there’s no way a “not that big of a deal” argument would ever be tried with the men — but it would end this death spiral – this nauseating one-upmanship that’s made “2015 World Cup” into a topic worthy of eye rolls. Ten months out from the event, both sides are in “by any means necessary” mode, with a tone-deaf FIFA creating an atmosphere where fire has to fight fire.
It’s easy to forget: There’s an actual tournament at the end of this round. And if it’s anything like Germany 2011, it’s going to be a damn good one. But right now, the actual games just can’t come soon enough.