LONDON – Video games giant EA Sports has received criticism for failing to include women's players and teams on its popular title "FIFA" in the wake of the United States' dramatic victory for the Olympic gold medal.
The Americans' 2-1 triumph over Japan was watched by an audience of 4.35 million, a new record for NBC Sports Network. The program's standard of play at major events like the Olympics and Women's World Cup has improved dramatically.
Yet, there are still no soccer video games that feature women, denying fans the opportunity to perform as stars like Abby Wambach or Hope Solo on "FIFA," a new version of which is released every year and has sold more than 100 million copies.
Frustrated fan Fernanda Schabarum from Boca Raton, Fla., began a petition this week to try to force EA Sports to change its policy and respond to the additional exposure of women's soccer following a remarkable Olympic tournament. Schabarum started a campaign on the website change.org. As of Saturday evening, the petition already had more than 1,400 signees.
"Athletes, young and old, look up to these women for their athleticism and sportsmanship," Schabarum said. "EA Sports should feature them in the next FIFA release so that all soccer fans can have a chance to play as their favorite soccer stars."
Despite the success of the American team, women's soccer struggles to get attention outside of major championships – a situation that could be helped by the team's inclusion in the wildly popular video game. U.S. league Women's Professional Soccer folded earlier this year amid a sea of debt.
[Photos: Team USA wins gold in women's soccer]
Gold-medal hero Carli Lloyd, who scored twice in the American's final victory, believes adding female athletes to the game could have a positive impact on women's soccer.
"I would love for EA Sports to add females to the FIFA games," Lloyd said. "Women's sports have come a long way, and it will only help grow the game if EA Sports added females to the game."
An EA Sports official said the company routinely reviews fans' suggestions for the game.
"We get literally thousands upon thousands of suggestions from our fans for new features and we have to evaluate those suggestions, such as the inclusion of female players in the game, against our resources, priorities and overall fan feedback," said David Rutter, executive producer of "FIFA 13." "At the moment, we don’t have plans to include female players in the game."
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