• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

FIFA drops the ball at the Women’s World Cup

Poor and even unsafe training pitches have hampered the preparations of the Dutch national ladies’ team currently playing in the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. It has also left the coach fuming, as he had warned FIFA about the shortcomings months ago.

Upon arriving in Sydney, the ‘Orange lionesses’ first abandoned the field at Sydney FC due to the poor condition of the field.

“It felt as if we were walking on indoor carpet,” coach Andries Jonker described his experience. “We wondered if the ball would bounce, as the surface felt very absorbing, but it certainly did!” he added, pointing out that the field didn’t match the quality of surface his team is used to playing on.


Repeat in New Zealand

Once the team arrived at the Bay Oval in Tauranga, New Zealand, to further prepare itself for the opening game against Portugal, Jonker noticed a solid patch underneath the surface. “From above, all looks well, but when you walk over it, you can feel the difference.”

The 35 by 20m section is positioned near the centre circle of the field, making it impossible to practice 11 vs 11 games.

“It is the section where the cricket players that usually use this venue bat. The only thing they have done to convert this venue into a training venue for the FIFA Women’s World Cup is place a grass slab over it. We had already pointed out last year in October, as well as in February this year, that this would be dangerous for the players. FIFA assured us that this would be rectified once the cricket season had come to an end and before the start of the tournament. Clearly, they haven’t kept their word.”

The coach describes the section as being harder than synthetic turf. In addition to being bad for the joints, muscles and tendons, Jonker and his team particularly fear the sharp edge that one can still feel. “Falling with your knee or shoulder on it would certainly leave you with a problem.”

While he called the whole issue amateurish, Jonker did admit that the other sections of the field were in good condition.


No alternative

Upon receiving the official complaint by the Dutch FA, FIFA dispatched a field technician to assess the situation. Furthermore, they offered six alternative fields near the Dutch training camp. However, none of these were satisfactory, while a field in Hamilton would become a logistical nightmare.

“It would take an hour and a half just to get there, which would make our schedule for the day even more challenging, as we’d also have to factor in another hour and a half for the return leg.”

It has now been decided to remain at the Bay Oval but to abandon 11 vs 11 training matches. The Netherlands will use the same venue in preparation for their third match.


History repeated

It appears as if field problems have become part and parcel of the preparations of the Dutch national ladies’ team for the 2023 FIFA World Cup. The final game in the Netherlands also had to be moved to a different venue following the discovery of pebbles and glass fragments in the surface.

While an attempt was made to remove these from the surface, this soon turned out to be impossible, due to the volume and spread over the field.

The club that had made its field available blamed the scarifying of the field for the surfacing of the pebbles and glass fragments.

Guy Oldenkotte

Guy Oldenkotte is senior editor of sportsfields.info and has been covering the outdoor sportssurfaces market and industry since 2003

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