The artificial turf that FIFA and the Canadians forced on the Women’s World Cup nearly cost Hope Solo a chance to compete in the championship game.
On her blog, Solo has posted ‘Winning It All ‘ a long and fascinating account of the U.S. team’s journey through the 2015 World Cup. It’s insightful and filled with great personal stories, and I’ll have more to say about it soon.
But the big news is near the end, where Solo discloses that a knee injury nearly kept her out of the July 5 final against Japan — a knee injury caused by artificial turf.
One thing that I don’t think anyone knows is that three days before we played Japan, I couldn’t walk.
Before the World Cup, around the middle of May, I had injured my left knee pretty badly. During a practice, when we were working on a specific kind of sliding save, my cleat got caught in the artificial turf we were training on. I twisted my knee, and tore the surrounding muscle, which is exactly the reason why no one — men or women — should be playing on turf. The same thing would never have happened on grass because my cleat would never have caught like that. I got treatment for it, but I had an awful swelling in my knee that never went away.
For most of the World Cup, I was able to fight through it. But the field in Montreal that we played on against Germany was the worst field in the entire tournament. Underneath the field was concrete, and over the course of the game, I could feel my leg weaken. I was limping halfway through, and by the end, my knee was shot. Each time I took a goal kick or kicked the ball with my right foot, I was planting on my left leg, and it was awful. It was completely unstable, and incredibly painful.
After the game was over, I was scared. I knew I was going to play in the final — I would have given a limb before sitting out — but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through it. Fortunately, by the time we played Japan, I had recovered enough that I could put it out of my mind, and focus on the game.
Given the Americans’ four goals in the first 16 minutes, and given their superb U.S. back line, and given that Japan wore the look of defeat almost from the moment the game began, it might not have mattered if Solo had been forced to sit out the title game.
The United States probably would have won with Ashlyn Harris in goal. The United States might have won with Hope Solo’s grandmother in goal.
But that doesn’t begin to excuse FIFA’s callous decision to allow the Women’s World Cup to take place on crappy plastic fields — a decision that could have sidelined one of the world’s great players during the most important match of her career.
By the way, because of that knee injury, Solo hasn’t played a minute for her club team, the Seattle Reign, which is likely to make the playoffs in the National Women’s Soccer League.
A curse on your head, Sepp Blatter.