Monday 10 July 2023, 14:00

Secretary General’s fifth Down Under visit commences in the Top End

The FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura has arrived in Australia ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023™ commencing her journey by visiting the Northern Territory to mark NAIDOC Week. The much-anticipated tournament is now just nine days away with the opening day to feature co-hosts New Zealand and Australia taking on Norway and Republic of Ireland respectively. On Saturday, the Secretary General and FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman addressed an 800-strong audience at the NAIDOC BALL in the Northern Territory capital, Darwin/Garramilla. NAIDOC Week – an acronym for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee – is an annual celebration to recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week was ‘For Our Elders’, a subject which is emblematic of the revered degree of respect for knowledge and wisdom in which Indigenous elders are regarded. Recognition of Indigenous people has been a strong focus for FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia & Aotearoa New Zealand 2023. Traditional place names for tournament venues, First Nations and Māori flags at stadiums, and cultural elements in pre-match ceremonies and team welcomes are just some of the innovations.

The Secretary General commenced her fifth visit on Friday in Australia’s ‘Top End’ and participated in the Northern Territory Indigenous Business Network Reception, a body representing Indigenous businesses in the territory. A traditional welcome from the Kenbi Larrakia Dancers commenced proceedings with Northern Territory Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Selena Uibo; Football Australia’s National Indigenous Advisory Group members Selina Holtze and Courtney Fewquandie, who is also First Nations manager for Football Australia; Bruce Stalder, Chief Executive Officer of Football Northern Territory; and former Australia midfielder Alicia Ferguson among those in attendance. On Saturday the delegation participated in a cultural tour at Pudakul and was guided through various aspects of Aboriginal food, customs, environment and way of life. The wetlands-based tours are entirely Aboriginal owned and operated, with nature-based experiences at its core.

Welcome Reception for FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura in Darwin

The trip concluded on Sunday with the Secretary General attending the Jade North Indigenous Football Talent Clinic, an event organised by Football Northern Territory with the assistance of Chief Executive Officer Bruce Stalder. Happy faces were the order of the day for the large turnout of young indigenous players at the event hosted by North, a member of Football Australia’s National Indigenous Advisory Group, former Socceroo and the first Indigenous player to captain an A-League championship-winning side. Fifty Indigenous children from Northern Territory and Western Australia will be invited to Australia’s match against Nigeria in Brisbane/Meaanjin, with a similar programme in place for Maori children in Aotearoa New Zealand. These engagements are tied to UNESCO’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, with his year’s theme being Indigenous Youth as Agents of Change for Self-determination. This date falls on a rest day during the tournament ahead of the quarters-finals. Following NAIDOC Week, Aotearoa New Zealand will enjoy a public holiday to celebrate Matariki on Friday 14 July to signal the Māori New Year. The Secretary General made a lengthy and engaged visit to Waitangi – New Zealand’s birthplace – on her visit in June.

“It has been a priority to connect with and show respect for the Indigenous cultures of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand,” said the FIFA Secretary General. “That was underlined with the recent announcement that First Nations and Māori flags will be flown during the tournament. “During my visit to the Northern Territory I have been struck by the pride First Nations’ people have for their culture - a culture which is a very warm and welcoming one. The raw joy on the youngsters’ faces we saw at the grassroots event proves what love there is for football in this part of the country. It is clear football in this area is growing and that Football Northern Territory has a plan to develop women's and youth football. “The world game has a remarkable ability to bring people together, to bridge divides, and to create opportunities for unity and understanding. Through the power of football we can amplify the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and create pathways for indigenous players, coaches, referees, administrators to shine on the world stage.”