OTTAWA, Dec 05, 2014 (AFP) – The first-round fate of 24 qualified teams isn’t the only issue to be ironed out as the 2015 Women’s World Cup draw sets the stage for next year’s global showcase on Saturday.
FIFA have promised that secretary-general Jerome Valcke will take the occasion of the draw in Ottawa to talk to players protesting the planned use of plastic pitches for the event, which kicks off on June 6 and after group and knockout stages across Canada concludes with the championship match on July 5 in Vancouver.
Elite female footballers who believe artificial turf poses more injury dangers have taken their case to the Human Rights Tribunal in Ontario charging FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association of discrimination, since men’s World Cup matches must be played on natural turf.
FIFA, who approved the plastic pitch plans when it accepted Canada’s bid, have insisted the dangers of artificial turf are minimal, but Valcke said in an article on FIFA.com in October “We will again welcome open dialogue at the official draw on December 6 in Ottawa.”
Hampton Dellinger, a lawyer representing the players, noted this week that even if Valcke makes himself available in Ottawa, many top players won’t be at the ceremony as they fulfill other commitments.
He has proposed a conference call to accommodate all interested parties.
“Can FIFA refuse to get on the phone with the world’s best soccer players?” Dellinger said on Monday, adding that in addition to discussing the playing surfaces FIFA could clarify questions about the use of goal-line technology and prize money.
Ecuador grabbed the last ticket to the tournament just this week with a dramatic victory over Trinidad and Tobago.
Like Ecuador, Ivory Coast and the Netherlands will be playing in the Women’s World Cup for the first time.
The United States and Germany are the only two-time winners of the tournament first played in 1991, while Norway and defending champion Japan have earned a title each.
Japan lifted the trophy in Germany in 2011 with a dramatic win over the United States in the final.
It was a morale-boosting win for a country still reeling from the earthquake and tsunami in March of that year that sparked the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant and left thousands dead.
This year’s 24 teams are eight more than played in the 2011 World Cup. They will be drawn into six groups of four, with first-round matches to be played in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton.