Sunday 18 June 2023, 14:00

Legacy in the spotlight for Wood as successful inspection tour concludes

New Zealand Football President and FIFA Council member Johanna Wood says excitement is growing across New Zealand a month out from the long-awaited opening of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023™. Along with FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura, FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman, and also Costa Rican Football President and FIFA Council member Rodolfo Villalobos, Wood has been part of a delegation visiting a variety of tournament-related sites across New Zealand over the past week. “We have seen the stadium upgrades, facility upgrades, how the cities are getting ready and we are seeing more hype and realisation that the tournament is just around the corner,” Wood said. “In my role as a Council member, I have been able to travel with the Secretary General and see first-hand what is happening. I have been able to see the high-end of the tournament preparation, and also at grassroots, and that is really important.”

Chief Women's Football Officer for FIFA, Sarai Bareman, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura, Wellington Regional Stadium CEO, Shane Harmon, FIFA Council Member, Rodolfo Villalobos and NZ Football President Johanna Wood

A site visit on Monday to Eden Park - venue for the Opening Match on 20 July - concluded a busy schedule. Other highlights included an inspection of the upgrades at Wellington Regional Stadium and various Team Base Camps. Wood said it was gratifying to see first-hand the work being done at Christchurch, which along with Tauranga and Palmerston North, are non-tournament venues that will host Team Base Camps. “We are really encouraging people in those cities to adopt those teams as their second team.”

Legacy in focus

Through their Aotearoa United plan, New Zealand Football have invested significant resources to ensure that a legacy remains long after the FIFA Women’s World Cup concludes. “One of the legacies will be an increase in participation, not just for women and girls, but also for young boys,” Wood said. “We saw that at Ellerslie with a little boy wanting to get his ball signed by the Secretary General. “We have seen facility legacy in the stadiums and Team Base Camps that we have been to with such things as gender neutral change rooms, and that sort of thing is a huge boost to our community. “We have an in-schools programme called Kōtuitui which we developed in conjunction with Sport New Zealand, and that is looking at how young people can examine other cultures through football. “We also have the Fantails programme, which is based around young girls going out and kicking a ball and simply having fun, which is really important."

New Zealand established its first professional side in 2021 in Wellington Phoenix, while off the field there has been a significant growth for females in various areas including coaching, match officials and governance. “Another legacy we have already started is around women in leadership so we talking about women in football both on and off the field. We are into our fourth edition [of the prorgramme] and what we are seeing is a number of participants from the early editions are now taking on roles in this World Cup. We have helped develop young women in football on and off the field. We will continue to do that, and that is really important. Thirty-one days out from the kick-off, Wood has a final piece of advice: “My message is to don’t forget to buy your tickets. Having been to several World Cups, you really don’t want to be the one that misses out on being in the stadium and feeling that atmosphere.”