Longo ready for home WC

Annalie Longo was part of a team that inspired a generation of women’s football players in New Zealand and she has the opportunity to add another chapter to that story at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

The Football Ferns midfielder was a member of New Zealand’s squad at the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2008.

That tournament was hosted in New Zealand and was a key pillar in kickstarting the rise of the women’s game in their country.

Amazingly, Longo had already been to a senior World Cup before she played in that 2008 event having attended the FIFA Women’s World Cup in China a year earlier with the Football Ferns.

Longo made her national team debut in 2006 as a 15-year-old and has been a staple of the side since, having earned her 100th cap in 2017.

She’s been to numerous age-group World Cups, the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, but said potentially competing in a global tournament on home soil in 2023 would be a career highlight.

“It’s the next thing, being able to play in front of your friends and family; hopefully it can really gain some attention and exposure and obviously try and grow the game here in New Zealand,” she said.

“I think it’s just an amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to see people get behind it and come and see us play on Eden Park.”

Longo also hinted that if she did take the field in 2023 it might be the final time she would put on the Football Ferns kit.

“I’ll kind of have to see how the body holds up, I guess. The first priority is the Olympics next year and then we kind of take it one year from that but with the World Cup in ’23, it’s obviously more motivation.

“It would be a bit of a full circle for me [in my career] and it be might one I retire on.”

Longo is one of a handful of players from New Zealand’s U-17 squad in 2008 that still play for the Football Ferns, including Rosie White, Katie Bowen and Victoria Esson, which exemplifies the impact that team had on the country’s football fabric.

The 28-year-old Longo works as the Women’s Football Development Officer for Mainland Football in Canterbury where the women’s game has continued to grow in the past few years.

She played for Australian side Melbourne Victory in the W-League last season but has no clear plan for what lies ahead on the club front before next year’s Olympics.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup will expand to 32 teams in 2023 when it will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, which shows the continued growth of the women’s game.

The FIFA Council voted to award the event to Australia and New Zealand on Friday, marking the first time the tournament will be held in the Southern Hemisphere.

The 2019 edition in France enjoyed huge TV viewership figures around the globe and strong crowd attendances.

OFC Women’s Football Development Officer Emma Evans said co-hosting a Women’s World Cup in New Zealand had the potential to leave a legacy for the game in our region and beyond.

“The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will have an undoubtable impact on football in this region, across all levels and areas of the game, but it also has the potential to change perceptions and challenge social norms which will transform the lives of girls and women across Asia and the Pacific,” Evans said.

“If this legacy can reach beyond the football field, and into the homes and communities of girls and women across Asia and the Pacific, that will be where the legacy lies, and where I believe the greatest impact will be.”

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