The women’s Olympic football final has been moved to later in the day and switched to a different venue because of heat concerns.
The match between Sweden and Canada was scheduled to take place in the main Olympic Stadium in Tokyo and kick off at 11am local time on Friday. However, temperatures in the Japanese capital are set to peak at midday at 32 degrees and the game will now begin at 9pm and be staged in Yokohama.
It is understood that both teams were concerned for the health and safety of their players, as well as the state of the pitch. Fifa said the switch had been made “to provide the best possible conditions for the players and having taken into consideration the impact of weather conditions”.
The Sweden and Chelsea goalkeeper, Zecira Musovic, had tweeted her frustration regarding the proposed kick-off on the eve of the game. “To even consider playing a final at 11:00 local time in Japan is a direct danger to the players’ health due to extreme weather conditions,” she wrote. “Once again money talks way too much in a discussion that should not be a discussion.”
Sweden’s Bayern Munich defender Hanna Glas added: “It’s a strange time. I have a hard time seeing a men’s team playing at 11 in the morning. It’s a bit sad that it’s like that. It’s going to be a big mental challenge.”
The change was welcomed by Sweden’s manager, Peter Gerhardsson, who said: “It’s not just a good decision, it’s a very, very, very, very, very good decision!”
Canada’s Ashley Lawrence was also grateful for the alteration. “I know this group is so good at adapting so we were ready for the 11am kick-off,” she said. “But I think it’s great that we can play at 9pm. Just with the weather and for both teams, it’s going to make for a better game.”
As well as the heat the players would have had to deal with a schedule change with all matches before the final having kicked off between 4.30pm and 8.30pm local time.
It is believed that the 11am kick-off was picked at the behest of broadcasters in the United States who were keen to show the final on prime time TV were the nation’s world champions, who were defeated by Canada in the semi-finals, to have reached the gold medal match.