Concerns are being raised about the safety of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USNWT) as well as other competitors at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, after complaints about scattershot security at the event, Yahoo Sports reports.
Sports writer Doug McIntyre says that he noticed some obvious flaws in the security procedures in place for the USWNT and other teams not long after he showed up for work in France. The USA’s team bus is emblazoned with the American flag, the name of the sponsor, FIFA logos, and other insignia that reveals to anyone and everyone who is on the bus. What’s more, the bus is parked at the hotel where the women, and their support staff, are staying. Long story short, says Mcintyre: anyone with an interest in bringing harm to the American women knows exactly where they are most of the time, particularly when they are most vulnerable — at their hotel, for example, or on the streets of Paris. It’s the same for all of the teams at the tournament.
For the American women in particular, however, openly advertising where they are may not be the best idea. The heavy favorites before the tournament started, the women have now assumed the role of the tournament’s villains after their 13-0 drubbing over Thailand, an outcome that’s gotten Megan Rapinoe and her teammates accused of poor sportsmanship, among other misdeeds. And of course, there’s always anti-American sentiment outside of the U.S. All of this is to say that the American women could be the targets of violent attacks.
U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle won’t go out in public wearing anything that would indicate that she’s a member of the U.S. team.
“Lavelle is a 24-year-old World Cup rookie, yet she understands that drawing unnecessary attention to yourself, especially in a place where everybody might not love you or the country you represent, isn’t smart,” writes McIntyre.
So far, the concerns about the safety of the competitors at the Women’s World Cup appear more theoretical than real, as there’s never been a security-related incident at a Women’s World Cup event in its 28 years.
The same can’t be said for the men’s tournament. In 1998, for example, French authorities uncovered a plot to attack the U.S. Men’s National Team while they were eating supper. Outside of the World Cup, there was a FIFA-sponsored African tournament in which an Angolan separatist group opened fire on the Togo team’s bus, killing two people and wounding seven others, including two players. This attack occurred despite the fact that the bus carrying the team was unmarked.
Shortcomings in FIFA’s security apparatus aside, McIntyre is pretty sure that, between the State Department and the U.S. Soccer Federation, the USWNT is being zealously guarded while they’re in France.