Sunday 24 February 2019, 14:16

Canada hands over to France

  • FIFA Women's World Cup™ Trophy Tour kicks off in France

  • Previous hosts Canada make handover in Paris

  • Trophy to visit all 24 qualified teams ahead of France 2019

To mark the launch of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ Trophy Tour in Paris on Sunday 24 February, 2015 tournament organisers Canada handed the baton on to upcoming hosts France, who are hoping to raise the bar even higher in terms of attendances and audience.

Hailed in all quarters, Canada 2015 beat all records and took women’s football into a new era, not least in the host country.

“The legacy of the World Cup was huge for us,” said Steve Reed, the president of Canada Soccer. “We now have around a million registered players, which is a pretty significant number. We’ve launched a number of programmes and made the sport more accessible, both for girls and boys.”

“We rose to a very big challenge in holding the World Cup in such a big country, with five different time zones,” added Peter Montopoli, the secretary general of Canada Soccer. “The whole country rallied round though, and in the end we beat audience records and set a new standard. Canada 2015 was a turning point in the history of women’s football. The women’s team attract the highest attendances these days and we’re very proud of that.”

“We’re battle ready but we’re going to step up our efforts to ensure that everything is perfect in terms of organisation and engagement across the whole country,” said a smiling Brigitte Henriques, vice-president of the French Football Federation (FFF) and the France 2019 Local Organising Committee (LOC), who was only too happy to speak to her Canadian counterparts about the major challenge awaiting France.

“What was so amazing about Canada was that the stadiums were full, with many of the games attracting crowds in excess of 25,000. We also saw a record audience as well, both on TV and social media, which had everything to do with how well the tournament was organised. We’ve seen the legacy that the tournament left and that’s encouraged us to push on, especially with youth and health programmes.”

Henriques also pointed to the fact that Les Bleus’ triumph at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ has raised expectations among French fans, who in her opinion want to experience those emotions all over again and who are showing an increasing appetite for the women’s game.

“It’s a gamble that's paid off, because women’s football in France had a very low profile before 2011. Since then we’ve gone from 50,000 to 150,000 registered players. We’ve been promoting the World Cup in every Host City for the last two years and it’s gone so well that we’re actually worried a lot of people will come away empty handed when individual tickets go on sale to the general public on 7 March.”

“We can’t wait for it to start and to welcome the world,” said Laura Georges, secretary general of the FFF and a FIFA Legend, before being joined by former USA international and two-time world champion Kristine Lilly, a member of the #LegendsAssemble group along with Georges.

The two ex-players posed for the cameras with the Trophy before heading to the Parc des Princes for a group photo session, the final act of a hugely symbolic day, one that promises much for the future.

Laura Georges and Kristine Lilly pose with the FIFA Women's World Cup trophy