Sunday 03 September 2023, 06:00

Magic ticket holder looks back at magic FIFA Women’s World Cup experience

  • The Strong family reflect on a memorable month in Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland

  • After purchasing the 1,500,000th ticket, they were invited to be VIPs for six remaining matches

  • Daughter Isobel may now take up football, which she previously had considered a typical sport for boys.

Two weeks to the day since the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ final, Maria Strong is still wondering if the past month was a dream or actually happened. Strong was one of the 30,889 sports fans to attend the group match at Eden Park between Italy and Argentina on 24 July, and in doing so, the Auckland local happened to purchase the 1.500.000th ticket to the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino poses with the 1,500,000th FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 ticket holder

To celebrate the tournament reaching this magic milestone, Strong and her family were invited to meet FIFA President Gianni Infantino in the VIP area, who then surprised the family with an invitation to attend all six remaining matches at Eden Park as his personal VIP guests.

“These things never, ever happen to us, so we were just blown away,” says Strong, who attended the remaining six matches with husband Jason Roxburgh and children Isobel (12), Boston (11) and Harry (9).

“The whole experience was extremely special and we loved every minute of it,” says Strong, who bought the original ticket as a birthday present for football-mad son Boston.

“The rest of us didn’t know much about football, but we really got into it and started following the other teams as well, even the ones who were not playing in Auckland.”

Isobel and Harry are both rugby players, but got caught up in the World Cup excitement, and Strong says her daughter may take up football as well, which she previously had considered a typical sport for boys.

Strong says her family thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality in the VIP section of Eden Park and as regular attendees started recognising a few of the high-profile guests around them.

The Strong Family - 1,500,000 ticket holders at the FIFA Women's World Cup in Eden Park

As the tournament was reaching the play-off stage, Strong says the nights at Eden Park just got “better and better”.

“Every game, the atmosphere was going up a level, the games got more exciting and the crowd was getting louder. It even felt as if they were packing more and more people each game.”

Strong says she will never forget the drama in the semi-final and the late three-goal burst between Spain and Sweden, with her family always carrying some priceless memories from an incredible month at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, “even when we are back in the cheap, cold seats, next time we go to a match at Eden Park”.