With football riding a wave of popularity not seen in New Zealand for nearly 30 years, the stadium is showcasing the round-ball code from grassroots to international level, featuring the game’s leading male and female talent and rising stars.
“The month of football kicks off with the finals of the United Soccer 1 men’s competition on September 11,” says the stadium’s commercial and marketing manager Chris Kemp.
“The 83rd final of New Zealand’s version of the English FA Cup, the Chatham Cup, is played the following day, September 12. This iconic knockout competition, fought for since 1923, has been decided nine times at North Harbour Stadium since we opened in 1997,” he says.
This year’s final will be played between Auckland’s Bay Olympic and Miramar Rangers of Wellington and kick-off is at 2pm.
The female equivalent, the Women’s Knockout Cup, will have its grand finale at the same venue a week later on September 19.
Ten days after that, the OFC Women’s Nations Cup will be held involving teams from Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tonga and Vanuatu, as well as New Zealand’s own Football Ferns.
The tournament runs from September 29 to October 8, with the semi-finals taking place on October 6 and the final on October 8.
The winner will go on to represent Oceania at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany next year.
North Harbour Stadium has had a strong link with football for a number of years. New Zealand Football has based itself there since 2003 and it was the home of the now defunct New Zealand Knights team, who competed in the first two seasons of the A-League before being replaced by the Wellington Phoenix.
The stadium has also been a host for major FIFA tournaments.
Matches in the New Zealand-hosted FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2008 were held at North Harbour and the ground also played host to FIFA U-17 Men’s World Cup games when the tournament came to New Zealand in 1999. The finals for both events were played at the stadium and were very well-attended – the male match was a sell-out while the women attracted 17,000 spectators.
“It’s only fitting then that our venue hosts the All Whites’ first match on home soil since the team’s remarkable 2010 World Cup achievement when it finished the tournament as the only unbeaten side, a feat acknowledged by everyone from FIFA boss Joseph S. Blatter to U2’s Bono,” says Kemp.
The much-awaited game against Honduras, a fellow World Cup finalist, kicks off at 7.30pm on October 9 and is expected to be a sell-out at the 25,000 capacity venue. Tickets are available from Ticketek and start at $19 (child) and $39 (adult). New Zealand play Paraguay in Wellington three days later on October 12.