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Trophy tour boosts New Zealand’s World Cup dream

FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman and Football Fern Hannah Wilkinson

The arrival of the official FIFA Women’s World Cup™ Trophy in Auckland couldn’t have been any more timely for New Zealand Football which recently submitted its expression of interest in hosting the 2023 edition of the prestigious tournament.

As part of a global tour to celebrate the world’s premier women’s football competition, which will run from 7 June to 7 July in France this year, the coveted silverware was on full display at Eden Park on Thursday in front of media and hundreds of young school children showing off  their skills in a festival of football.

FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer and New Zealander Sarai Bareman was a distinguished guest to accompany the trophy in Auckland, which is the latest stop on its two months journey across six continents and all 24 nations competing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Bareman, who holds the highest-ranking position in women’s football worldwide, is delighted by the growth of the game in both around the world as well as here in New Zealand.

“The momentum behind the women’s game is absolutely massive, it’s evolving so quickly as we see more and more professional leagues around the world with more girls participating in the game every year.

“There is also greater commercial interest, big sponsors are coming on board so the growth is amazing in all areas which is very important,” Bareman explained.

“We want to have 16 million women playing football worldwide by 2020 and I think we will get there.

“And I think the growth in New Zealand is also incredible, New Zealand Football has been through some changes but it’s fantastic to see how they are  prioritising in the women’s game,” the FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer said.

“There are some top people working in football here and I’m very pleased to see the Johanna Wood the recently elected New Zealand Football President being involved.

“I believe she is only one in three female presidents of a Member Association across the entire globe which is incredible  and I’m confident under her leadership and with the passion and drive  at New Zealand Football the game will reach a new level,” she said.

New Zealand Football Chief Executive Andrew Pragnell echoed Bareman’s sentiments by declaring New Zealand’s interest in hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup in four years time.

“Absolutely, we are very keen to host the 2023 World Cup and we have expressed our interest, at the moment we are going through the bid registration process,” he said.

“New Zealand has a great track record of hosting FIFA events and great track record of hosting major events, we have all the tourist facilities and we are a great destination and football is surging in this country.

“We had 35 per cent growth rate in women’s football since 2011,  one of the fastes growing segments of our game which we are really proud of.

“There is still a lot of work ahead but we are very excited and our bid is going to be strong,” added Pragnell.

The right to host one of the largest  sporting events in the world has never been more with a record nine nations putting their hands up and as a Kiwi, Bareman couldn’t hide her delight  to see New Zealand’s  interest.

”I think it’s fantastic that they put their hat into the mix, it speaks a lot of how much they are prioritising women’s football in this country and the philosophy of FIFA to give opportunities to more member countries to host events,” said Bareman.

In the meantime however, the Football Ferns’ main priority is a successful World Cup in France.

Drawn into Group E against the Netherlands, Canada and Cameroon, New Zealand’s first target is to advance to the knockout stage of the tournament.

Striker Hannah Wilkinson says the New Zealand U-17 women’s team showed what can be achieved with a history making  third-place finish at the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup last November.

“I think I can speak for everyone in the team, how much inspiration the success of the U-17 team has given all of us.

“It’s huge, to do so well at the world stage is just so awesome and gives us a lot of hope and confidence,” said the Football Ferns striker.

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