(WOMENSENEWS)– The final match of the 2015 Women’s World Cup, hosted by Canada, takes place today, July 5, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The U.S. advanced to the finals after upsetting first-ranked Germany on June 30, and will play against Japan in Edmonton.
The tournament, which took place across Canada–in Edmonton, Moncton, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver–is sure to leave its mark on sports history.
It was played while FIFA was under a huge international corruption scandal that was toppling its leadership and staged on artificial turf fields over the objections of players.
Turf is not supposed to be an issue in the next tournament in 2019. France and South Korea, the two countries bidding to host the next Cup, both plan to play on grass.
A group of elite female players–including includes U.S. stars Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan; Germany’s Nadine Angerer, FIFA player of the year; and Spain’s Veronica Boquete–threatened legal action against FIFA.
The players argued that being forced to play on artificial turf was discriminatory when the men play their elite tournament on grass. The Copa América, a male soccer tournament happening simultaneously in Chile, is being played on grass, for example. Soccer players prefer not to play on artificial turf due to the higher risk of falls, turf burns and other injuries. During this tournament, the temperature of one turf field reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit at kick off.
The group ultimately dropped the complaint, but the popularity of the tournament proved that these players deserve better conditions.
A record-setting 12.5 million people were expected to attend the Women’s World Cup.
Though FIFA is still counting ticket sales, approximately 1.05 million people tuned into to watch the first eight games, which is a 73 percent increase from viewership of the 2011 Women’s World Cup, Market Watch reported on June 23. The number of viewers has remained in the millions. More than 4 million watched the U.S. vs. Sweden game, and 5 million watched the U.S. go up against Nigeria.
Fox paid $425 million for the rights to air this year’s Women’s World Cup, the next one in 2019, as well as the men’s tournaments in 2018 and 2022. This means that the tournament is potentially being watched in fewer homes and businesses than in years past when ESPN, which has a bigger viewership, had the air rights.
The games also highlighted big national differences over same-sex relationships, particularly as the games were played on the heels of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right.
While players on several teams were enjoying these legal rights, Nigerians are subject to 14 years of imprisonment for homosexual behavior, and players on the Nigerian women’s national team have been scrutinized, Al Jazeera America reported on June 20. An anonymous source speaking with a reporter from Sports Illustrated confirmed that lesbian players on the team are hiding their sexuality from their federation.
FIFA allows female players to wear officially sanctioned hijabs during games. However, French soccer authorities have prohibited their players from doing so. In 2004 France banned the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in schools. In 2010, it prohibited women from wearing face veils in public.
This Women’s World Cup kicked off as FIFA was in the middle of large scandal. In early June, the U.S. Department of Justice charged 14 FIFA soccer executives with crimes ranging from racketeering to tax evasion, Vox reported on June 20. Allegedly, these individuals paid more than $150 million in bribes to FIFA officials to secure broadcast rights. Swiss officials are investigating suspicions of bribery during the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Sepp Blatter, five-term president of the FIFA, resigned as a result.
Approximately 29 million women and girls worldwide play soccer, New American Media reported in July 2014. Almost 20 percent or 375,000 of all American high school female athletes play the sport.
But being a professional female athlete is still a tough way to make a living. The highest paid female soccer player and all-time leading scorer in Women’s World Cup history, Brazil’s Marta, earns $400,000. Her male counterpart, Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese player on Madrid’s national team, earns $19 million.
The U.S.’s Wambach, the leading scorer of international goals in all of soccer–whether men’s or women’s–earned $190,000 last year. Most of her teammates, however, earned far less: between $6,800 to $37,800 this season. Some players, such as the U.S.’s Morgan, supplement their soccer incomes by endorsing corporations such as McDonald’s and Nationwide Insurance.
While fanning appreciation of women’s soccer as a sport, the tournament also fostered plenty of sexist admirers as well. Just Google female soccer players and more than a few sites devoted to the "hottest women footballers" will pop up.
In 2004, Blatter, FIFA‘s former president and self-described "Godfather of women’s soccer," suggested that female soccer players don skimpier shorts to increase the sport’s popularity, Sporting News reported on June 5. Since then, one female FIFA staffer has resigned because of blatant sexism. A CNN report showed that FIFA deliberately avoided nominating women from high positions within the organization. On FIFA’s 27 member executive committee, only three are women.