New Zealand “doesn’t know what’s about to hit it”, says Cambridge couple Selina and Emma Oliver, ahead of the world’s first FIFA Women’s World Cup Play-Off Tournament games tonight.
“I don’t think people realise just how big this is,” said Selina, who has been volunteering for FIFA since mid-February, helping people get accreditation for Waikato Stadium.
“We’ve never had this in New Zealand before and we may never again. It’s the first time the Cup has been co-hosted and the first time FIFA has held a play-off tournament, so we’re breaking new ground.”
The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, co-hosted by Aotearoa and Australia, will kick off in July and run into August.
Meanwhile, for the first time ever, FIFA is holding a Play-Off Tournament ahead of the main event. Hosted at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton and North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, it begins tonight and will run until Thursday, February 23.
The event will see 10 nations – Cameroon, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Haiti, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Portugal, Senegal and Thailand – compete for the final three Cup qualifying spots.
In addition, New Zealand’s Football Ferns will play three international friendlies around the qualifiers. New Zealand’s first match will be against Portugal at Waikato Stadium at 7pm tonight (February 17), with a second match scheduled against Argentina in Hamilton on Monday, February 20.
Emma and Selina are encouraging football fans to grab a rare opportunity to see global superstars of the women’s game in action right on their doorstep.
Emma, who will work her first volunteer shift in FIFA’s guest operations team tonight, will be heading to Auckland in July to watch her favourite international team, USA, in action.
“The US have won the past two World Cups and it’ll be the first time anyone’s gone three in a row if they win this year,” she said.
“We’re lucky the US is coming to New Zealand rather than Australia. They are an incredible team.”
Also running from today (February 17) until Monday (February 20) is the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Unity Pitch at Hamilton Lake Domain in front of the Verandah cafe.
Suitable for the whole family, it will offer ‘give it a go’ sessions including football drills and skills and a self-defence class. There is also entertainment on offer, including a friendly game between local fire and police departments.