Sunday 23 July 2023, 13:00

FIFA Women's World Cup™ has put New Zealand in celebratory mood, says All Blacks coach after meeting Gianni Infantino

  • FIFA President met Ian Foster in Auckland

  • New Zealand have won the Rugby Union World Cup three times

  • Ian Foster’s daughter Michaela is a member of the New Zealand squad at the Women’s World Cup

The coach of the New Zealand rugby union team, Ian Foster, has met FIFA President Gianni Infantino and said that the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023™ has brought a festive mood to Aotearoa New Zealand, which is co-hosting the tournament with Australia. The coach of the three-times rugby union world champions, popularly known as the All Blacks, added that the entire country had united behind the New Zealand women’s football team. “I think there's a sense of celebration about it. It's like people are going along and actually want to experience something a little bit new. Maybe many of our public haven't watched top football the way they're watching it now," said Ian Foster, whose daughter Michaela is a member of the New Zealand squad. The All Blacks coach was in the crowd of 42,137 fans at Auckland's Eden Park, a record attendance for either a men's or women's football match in the country, when the hosts kicked off the tournament with a 1-0 over Norway on Thursday. He quickly got caught up in the atmosphere.

Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA and Ian Foster, Head Coach of New Zealand's All Blacks

"I loved the emotion of the crowd. I was interested to see how the Kiwi crowds would go, but they really got into it, and you kind of just ride the emotions because you know many of the athletes. And just to see their pure joy when things worked, it was unforgettable," he said. He also spoke about how the country had come together to get behind the home team. "We've sort of been proud of (the team), but not really known them very well. And so, I think to be able to get behind them and begin to know the athletes and to see the personalities come through, that's what's been special."

He added: "It's a beautiful thing of sport. People love seeing motivated people do what they love and it's a chance for people to get away from the routines of life and just go and do something from a pure joy perspective." Ian Foster said he believed that hosting the tournament would inspire women at all levels to play football. "I think tournaments like this are great for showing people that there is a pathway from a career side, and I think that's hugely motivational for a lot of our top athletes," he said. "But it also shows a lot of the amateurs the way the game can be played, and they can start to celebrate individuals and then maybe just really enjoy that Sunday afternoon game that they have with their friends."