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Shortly after he arrived in North America in 2007, David Beckham took an infamous mulligan on his first road game, in Toronto.

Mr. Beckham was coming off an injury and decided not to risk his permanently wonky ankles on what was then an artificial surface at BMO Field.

"You can't play a game like soccer on that sort of field," he sniffed.

Someone pointed out that several of Mr. Beckham's youth academies use synthetic fields.

"At that level, I think it's a great surface," he clarified, somewhat confusingly. This is the NIMBYism of soccer – turf's fine, but not for real players.

It's the crux of the desultory slapping contest pitting the game's top female players against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association over the surfaces to be used at next year's World Cup.

The issue isn't artificial turf. It's hurt feelings.

The turf-versus-grass debate is the climate change of sports science. Everyone's got an advocate masquerading as an expert who will explain that a) turf isn't just safe, turf loves you, or b) turf wants you dead, and will murder you from the feet up.

Without exception, every pro hates ersatz grass. Problematically, very few can tell you exactly why. It's slower. Harder on the joints. Most fall back on the idea that it "plays different."

Which is also true of a natural surface when it gets very cold or very hot or when it rains.

Conditions change. People adapt. This is why we fight wars in the spring.

When Canada bid for the 2015 Women's World Cup, it made clear that it planned to use stadiums carpeted with turf. This wasn't a big secret that got sprung last-minute on the women's game.

The problem was that no one could believe Canadian organizers would follow through on such a chintzy, small-minded economy.

You can argue all the livelong day about the risks of turf. Bottom line – they're minimal. Possibly non-existent. Many of these same women compete uncomplainingly on synthetic turf in their professional leagues. Suddenly, to hear them talk about it, it's like playing on a field of loosely packed bowling balls.

"The risk to get injured is very, very high there," the world's current player of the year, Nadine Angerer, said Thursday.

There are no statistics to bear out that claim. Study after study shows the rate of injury on high-quality turf versus grass is essentially the same. Ms. Angerer's hyperbole isn't just wrong-headed. It's diversionary.

By crying wolf over injuries, this movement is in danger of straying too far from the most salient point – that this isn't about sports; it's about class.

The next men's World Cup is in Russia. Nearly all of the stadiums there use the phony stuff. They're tearing it up and replacing it with grass. Not carting in pallets for temporary use, but reconfiguring the arenas.

Once the World Cup is finished, they'll reinstall turf. The grass won't make it through one winter on the steppe. The cost will be astronomical, especially considering the modification extends not only to fields of play, but also to practice facilities.

Nobody asked for this to be done. The host country volunteered. Whatever their faults, the Russians are not the sort who invite you to dinner, then expect you to dine off paper plates. Evidently, Canada just drops the food in your hands and asks you to eat over the sink.

The Russians and FIFA understand that if men were asked to play on turf, they'd refuse. Not go to the press and complain, or hire lawyers or start waving around technical studies. They'd just find something better to do that summer.

This is why the women are losing a salutary battle. They want the Ontario Human Rights Commission to do for them what they aren't prepared to do for themselves.

The lawyers trotted out two of the complainants on Thursday, Ms. Angerer of Germany and Veronica Boquete of Spain. They weren't demanding anything; they were begging. They couldn't fathom the idea of threatening a boycott.

"We didn't think about more than [the lawsuit]," Ms. Boquete said. "Of course we'll go to Canada. We want to play the World Cup. It doesn't matter how."

"We never, ever talked about a boycott," Ms. Angerer said.

Why not? And why in the hell would you admit that?

The players are going to lose their human-rights complaint. It's good for getting the word out, but substantively it's a stunt. Canada has hosted several World Cups, for women and men, girls and boys. They've all played on turf. None of them flinched.

All Ms. Angerer, Ms. Boquete et al. have is an argument based on simple fairness – why expect of elite women's players what you would never ask of similarly accomplished men?

That's a winning idea if they'd take the chance of decisively embracing it. For whatever reason, they won't.

No Canadian national team player is a party to this suit. None of them will talk about it. You can understand their reluctance to take on a governing body that is, for all intents and purposes, their employer. Still, it further undercuts the cause.

It was left to a former Canadian player, Carrie Serwetnyk, to do the grenade tossing.

"Women would play on a field with glass and nails for the World Cup," Ms. Serwetnyk fumed, while Ms. Angerer and Ms. Boquete sat silently. "That's the problem … [FIFA and the CSA] know they can't get away with that with the men. Men would boycott."

The standard-bearers of the women's game are in the right here. They have history and popular opinion on their side. This should be easy.

But it's already going sideways. What happens after FIFA and the CSA beat them back in court? I hope for the sake of the women's game the fallback plan isn't rallying public outrage.

Because it's going to be hard to explain to people why they should go to war for you when you're not willing to take any risks yourself.

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