Wednesday 14 June 2023, 22:00

Long-term legacy in focus for Secretary General’s Wellington visit

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura has been buoyed by a jam-packed visit to Wellington / Te Whanganui-a-Tara ahead of the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023™. The busy schedule in the New Zealand capital included key discussions with stakeholders - including government and diplomatic representatives - plus visits to key venues, highlighted by a tour of Wellington Regional Stadium. The city will be a major venue during the tournament featuring nine matches - a New Zealand equal-high – commencing with Spain-Costa Rica and concluding with a quarter-final on 11 August. Among the highlights are New Zealand’s key match-up against Philippines and a France 2019 Final rematch between USA and Netherlands.

The FIFA Secretary General was enthused by her visit to Wellington Regional Stadium, the famed New Zealand venue affectionately known to locals as the Cake Tin. Local sports fans will be the beneficiaries of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup with major upgrades to various areas including a new pitch, gender-neutral dressing rooms and new turnstile facilities. Significantly too, new LED lighting will be the best in the country, and in keeping with FIFA Sustainability strategy for the tournament, offers tangible environmental solutions through an energy saving of 23 per cent. The Secretary General also visited Newtown Park, a key training venue and another facility that has enjoyed major upgrades, including to the lights and dressing rooms.

“Legacy has long been an objective for FIFA for every tournament but this has particularly been the case for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup,” said FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura. “I have really been pleased and excited to see all the changes and upgrades that have been made since I first visited.”

Away from the pitch, the Secretary General hosted a large gathering of representatives from embassies and consulates representing all six continents and each corner of the globe. Similar to an event held in Sydney last month for Australian-based diplomatic corps, the aim was to outline the significance of the Women’s World Cup, as well as FIFA’s vision and commitment for women’s football. The trip commenced on Tuesday with a meeting with the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hon Grant Robertson to discuss ticket sales for the Women’s World Cup, as well as facilities and training sites. This meeting was followed by a diplomatic function where the Secretary General was able to meet ambassadors from 22 of the 32 participating nations, as well as surrounding Pacific nations. Rodolfo Villalobos, President of the Costa Rican Football Association and FIFA Council Member, capped off a memorable evening by delivering a short message on behalf of FIFA President Gianni Infantino. The FIFA delegation, including FIFA Council member and New Zealand Football President Johanna Wood and Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman, was given an insight into the connection between sport and culture in New Zealand with impassioned speeches and a waiata poi showcasing that sport plays an important role in allowing communities to come together in a spirit of joy and celebration.

“We are ambitious about this World Cup, and we want it to be the most passionate, the most colourful and the most exciting one, and I’m confident that will be the case,” said FIFA Secretary General. “This will be an amazing opportunity to not only showcase women’s football to the world, but also highlight the qualities of these two amazing host nations. “The world will be watching and after this visit there is even more reason to believe it will be Beyond Greatness.”