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Team USA’s Sydney Leroux says playing the World Cup on artificial turf is like running on cement

Sydney Leroux gets by Mexico goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports)

It’s no secret that there’s sexism in world soccer. It’s so bad that, according to Team USA star Alex Morgan, FIFA President Sepp Blatter didn’t even recognize her the year she was nominated for women’s world player of the year. Sexism, however, doesn’t just affect morale, but also the game itself, according to striker Sydney Leroux, who compared the artificial turf FIFA is allowing the Women’s World Cup to be played on to a cement surface.

“Between men and women… this is not equal,” Leroux said in a recent video interview with Vice Sports. “For us to be playing the biggest tournament for women’s soccer on artificial grass is unacceptable. The game is completely different. It’s fake. So you don’t know how it’s gonna bounce. You don’t know how the ball is gonna run. It’s terrible for your body. The constant pounding. You’re running pretty much on cement. … We’re the guinea pigs.”

Leroux is not alone in her thoughts. She was one of dozens of women from around the world to file suit last year against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association over the use of what they call an “inferior” surface. The suit, filed in the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, complained of gender discrimination and noted not only has the men’s World Cup never been played on artificial grass, but both upcoming men’s tournaments in Russia and Qatar in 2018 and 2022, respectively, are slated to be played on real grass.

FIFA, however, would not back down from whatever agreements it made with the CSA and turf companies, and eventually the women were forced to withdraw the suit. While they now must accept having to play the tournament that kicks off on June 6 on fake grass, they certainly don’t have to like it.

And they’re not the only ones. Celebrities have voiced their concerns over the unequal treatment of the women’s game also. Most notably, actor Tom Hanks publicly tweeted his support for the women last year.

So did Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, a friend of Leroux’s, who tweeted his concern by posting a photo of Leroux’s torn-up legs after playing on an artificial surface.

Alas, FIFA’s gonna FIFA and, in the end, the world soccer governing body stuck to its guns out of what U.S. star Abby Wambach chocked up to pure stubbornness.

If only the women had such a choice.

“Some men don’t even travel in the MLS to play in places that have artificial turf because they don’t play on that,” Leroux told Vice.

Leroux’s comments were part of a larger interview, where she also talks about her upbringing, as well as her tattoos.