Carrie Serwetnyk: FIFA train wreck ignites Women’s World Cup

Vancouver Sun

By Carrie Serwetnyk June 5, 2015

We may choose not to admit it, but most of us love a train wreck. We slow down our vehicles to rubberneck minor fender benders. It’s our nature. That’s why it’s hard to keep our eyes off of the recent explosion at the FIFA headquarters with the top brass ignited by scandal and treachery, all just in time for the opening of the FIFA 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Quite frankly, the FIFA family should consider themselves fortunate to kick off this massive friendly distraction from their deals with the devil. But even this World Cup was already given a red card by over 70 of the top female players on the planet after FIFA and the CSA insisted they play on artificial turf. Even with their obscene gobs of loot, they couldn’t bother to dish out extra change for grass. With Canada opening the tournament against China in Edmonton on Saturday, FIFA counts on all controversies to evaporate the moment we don our country colours and indulge ourselves in the beautiful game. And beautiful it will be — ripped skin and all.

The women’s game is refreshing. We know the players aren’t making gazillions. They rarely dive. They run to each other when they score. And they stay for hours befriending their fans.

They are also seldom destructive. Unless a rematch of the U.S. vs. Canada game with a dodgy Norwegian referee in the middle reappears (recall the London Olympics semifinal?), it’s unlikely that a clan of pony-tail bandits will kick down the storefronts on Robson Street after a loss. Female soccer players are athletes who have persevered through tears, bumps and bruises for the pure joy of chasing a ball and high fiving their friends. We see it on the fields across our country with thousands of little girls prepping and fantasizing to be the next Christine Sinclair. With a pair of “W’s” in the upcoming weeks, a new burst of enthusiasm may inspire our country to paint the town red and white like we so enjoyed during the 2010 Olympics.

Canadian coach John Herdman says the “women’s team has no choice, they’ve got to get to the finals. ” This is a tall order considering world soccer powers such as the U.S., Germany, France, Japan and Brazil are heavy favourites. Remember the 2014 men’s World Cup when Germany demolished the Brazilian hosts 7-1? The skies literally opened in Rio that evening causing flash floods. Their dreams washed away. We never know whom the soccer gods will favour.

At the last women’s World Cup in 2011, it was a David and Goliath fable in which the Japanese inspired a tsunami-torn nation and hoisted the winning trophy above the almighty Americans. As the maple leaf-bearing team fronts up with the 12th man, er … woman on the field this time, you never know.

This is the beauty of the World Cup. It’s like opening a book. You don’t have to know any of the players or teams, the drama unfolds game by game and the heroes and villains are exposed. Unlikely stories such as the Algerian men’s squad fasting and competing through Ramadan or the Haitians plucking themselves out of the earthquake rubble to try and qualify will surface and bring us a closer understanding and appreciation of the people and cultures around us.

This is why we love the World Cup — men’s or women’s. It’s why nations and sponsors around the world will line the pockets of FIFA to be a part of the big dance. The controversy will put more bums in seats. The show will go on despite that darn plastic grass and the fall of FIFA President Sepp Blatter. We all know the women would play on glass and nails anyways if you asked them to. Go Canada.

Carrie Serwetnyk, the first female inductee to the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame, is director of Equal Play, a non-profit group working for girls on and off the field, and funded by Jump Start, Telus and “Kwikw” silver pendants (an eagle with soccer ball). The pendants, by Olympic medal designer Corrine Hunt, are available at EqualPlayFC.com

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