FIFA prepared on Friday to stand their ground in a turf war with top women soccer players, dismissing as "nonsense" any suggestion that staging next year`s World Cup on artificial grass was discrimination.
The bitter dispute between soccer`s governing body and a group of players who have filed a lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association continued to overshadow the buildup to Saturday`s glitzy World Cup draw for the June 5 to July 6 2015 tournament in six venues across Canada, all on artificial turf.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, whose organisation has been dogged by a wave of scandals and controversy ranging from allegations of corruption in the 2018/2022 World Cup bidding process to the artificial turf row, will not attend the draw, leaving general secretary Jerome Valcke to field reporters questions at pre-draw press conference.
Despite persistent threats by players` attorneys, Valcke said FIFA had not yet been served and would probably be advised to steer clear of the contentious subject.
But the general secretary came out guns blazing, declaring any talk of discrimination as unfounded.
"If anyone is saying the use of artificial pitch is a question of discrimination it is nonsense. It is completely crazy to say that. It has nothing to do with discrimination," declared Valcke. "I can`t imagine no one will recognise what FIFA has done for the development of women`s football over the last 15 years.
"I`m amazed by the size and the scale of the discussion.
"It is part of our statutes and regulations that artificial pitch can be used as natural grass to make sure we can play football everywhere."
Valcke arrived in the Canadian capital with the players` lawyers pressing for a conference call with the general secretary to discuss the dispute.
While Valcke had stated earlier he would welcome dialogue with any and all players he added a condition on Friday saying he would only do it face-to-face and not over the phone.
"I don`t have to speak to a lawyer. Why should I speak to anyone else but the players," said Valcke.
"I`m very happy to sit and discuss with the players but I will not discuss by phone because I am expecting to sit in front of people not via phone conference call."