In a shocking move, Sepp Blatter announced on Tuesday that he will step down as president of FIFA.
While most will wait to see who will replace Blatter and whether that will have a big impact on the alleged corruption that plagues the organisation, there is one big part of the soccer world that will almost certainly receive both an immediate and long-term boost from his resignation: women’s soccer.
The immediate effect on the women’s game should be felt as early as this weekend when the Women’s World Cup kicks off in Canada.
Ever since Swiss authorities arrested several high-ranking FIFA officials with the intention of extraditing them to the U.S. to face federal corruption charges, the Women’s World Cup has taken a backseat. That was unlikely to change during the tournament as long as Blatter remained defiant amid the ever-tightening circle around him. But it should change now.
“A cloud has been lifted,” said Alexi Lalas on Fox Sports 1. “Not just for the Women’s World Cup, but for soccer in general. You saw euphoria, almost, over the past hour when this news came out. That’s wonderful … As far as the Women’s World Cup, now we can concentrate on what ultimately is the most important thing when it comes to FIFA and soccer, and that’s the actual play on the field.”
Fellow Fox commentator Kelly Smith agreed, saying the World Cup is “going to be big now that the main guy has stepped down.”
But the impact of Blatter’s resignation on the world of women’s soccer goes deeper than just this tournament. It should also help the women to gain more respect and acceptance within FIFA.
While women’s soccer has grown immensely under the rule of Blatter, he has also held what can best be described as an adversarial relationship with the women’s game.
In 2004, Blatter said if women wanted a more popular sport they should wear more feminine clothing.
But it didn’t stop there.
In 2013, Blatter was one of several FIFA executives who did not recognise American Alex Morgan at a ceremony to announce the FIFA women’s player of the year. Morgan was one of the three finalists and called the scene “shocking.”
But the rift between Blatter and the women reached it’s low point during the lead up to this year’s World Cup when it was decided that all of the games would be played on artificial turf. The turf issue became so heated that a group of women led by Abby Wambach of the United State filed a gender discrimination complaint against FIFA to play on natural grass, same as the men. That suit was later dropped when it became clear it would not be resolved in time for the tournament.
Still, the damage was done. The women were about to play in their biggest event and the head of the organisation behind it was enemy No. 1. Now he is gone and like Lalas said, the cloud surrounding him is gone as well.
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