AUCKLAND – With just days remaining until Wellington plays host to the official draw for the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, local organisers reckon the time is ripe to lift football onto another level in New Zealand.
Dignitaries, including high ranking FIFA officials and government representatives from both New Zealand and Chile (host country for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in November) are expected at the red carpet function at Te Papa on Sunday, June 1, for the draw. The tournament will be held between October 28 and November 16, in four New Zealand cities, Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.
Organisation for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup has been underway for almost a year after New Zealand saw off the challenge of six other countries, most from South America, to win the right by FIFA to host the event.
Officials have been advised to expect two plane loads of football scouts from the United States for the tournament giving New Zealand’s leading teenage players the opportunity to catch their eye and carve out lucrative and lengthy careers in the world’s most popular sport.
Local Organising Committee CEO Chris Simpson is clear in his belief that this year’s event can break through the netball stranglehold on women’s sport in New Zealand and propel football into the public consciousness.
“Netball has dominated the landscape of women’s sport in New Zealand but football can compete with netball in simple numbers that play the game.”
“What we now want to see, and this is why I talk about the legacy this tournament can leave, is whether we can keep the 9-12 year old girls continuing with their football. Can we have all girl teams and competitions?”
Simpson says winning the bid to host the tournament is a great sign of faith from FIFA and it indicates the world governing body of football was impressed by New Zealand’s hosting of the 1999 inaugural FIFA U-17 World Cup for men.
“FIFA has indicated that ’99 was a great success and we now have the responsibility of ensuring this year’s event is just as successful.”
“If we can do that it really opens up the doors. New Zealand is in a unique position as the biggest and arguably the only country in the Oceania confederation able to host FIFA events, so it is highly likely that we will get repeat business and another age group World Cup.”
“We have done an economic impact report into how valuable this event is to New Zealand and it has been conservatively estimated at $30 million into the economy.”
Simpson says the organisation that goes into the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup is similar to that going into the senior men’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa in two years.
“It’s like a franchise,” says Simpson. “The only difference is the scale of the event. The men’s event in South Africa is bigger and needs more people but the list of organisational requirements is very similar.”
“We require around 1100 volunteers, 40 full and part time staff and this will be supplemented at the event by around 100 FIFA staff members.”
Simpson understands that one of the biggest challenges he has in a rugby mad country is trying to communicate to the New Zealand public just how big this event is.
“There is a perception that because it is an age group women’s event it is small fry.”
“That couldn’t be further from the truth. The television rights have been bought by more than 150 territories throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and America, I think the Netball World Champs went to a dozen and last year’s Rugby World Cup to less than 100.”
“The pictures are also going to countries that don’t see or hear a lot about New Zealand, like Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, North and South Korea, so this is a valuable opportunity, not just from a sporting sense but also in a tourism capacity.”
The draw, which is the most highly anticipated pre-competition event for the 16 teams that have earned a berth at this year’s tournament, set the stage by determining the opponents that each team will face during the group stage and identifying the venue and date for each match.
It will begin at 7:00pm on Sunday, June 1, at the Soundings Theatre at Te Papa Museum in Wellington.
Story courtesy New Zealand Football (NZF) Media
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