Author Topic: SOCCER: Bay wants piece of World Cup action  (Read 1062 times)

Offline David

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SOCCER: Bay wants piece of World Cup action
« on: February 19, 2007, 09:20:27 AM »
Within a world context, there's no doubt this country is a footballing backwater.

And within New Zealand, there's also little argument that if you're not based in Auckland, you don't rate here either. After all, New Zealand Football Championship rulings made in favour of Auckland City and the reluctance of the Football Federation of Australia and New Zealand Soccer to embrace the Wellington-Palmerston North A-League bid are ample recent evidence of that.

But a change could he at hand. Come 2008 and the NZ-hosted women's under-17 World Cup, Fifa's Chuck Blazer is promising to showcase New Zealand to the rest of the planet, with Hawke's Bay, potentially, at the forefront.
Blazer, a member of Fifa's executive committee and chairman of the organising committee for the women's under-17 and under-20 World Cups was at McLean Park on Saturday, as part of a delegation to determine the ground's and the region's ability to host matches and/or an entire group, when the tournament kicks off next year.

North Harbour Stadium, Waikato Stadium, the Westpac Stadium, QEII Park and Carisbrook are all in the mix too, but Blazer told SportToday he was more than happy with what he saw in Napier.

"We needed to have a look-see at the facilities to make sure you had the necessary infrastructure to host double-headers and we had to inspect local hotels to determine that we have room here for the teams," Blazer said.

"Here, your ground is an oval, and the only problem with an oval is that a portion of the fans are further away than they would otherwise be. But, especially in communities where people are accustomed to it, they take less offence, because they're less accustomed to be in a football- specific ground.

"They key thing for us, though, is that the surface the players are playing on is suitable. Obviously the type of pitches you have here are in this range and we have no doubt that they will be suitable for our purposes."

The other thing Blazer was attempting to do here in Hawke's Bay was gauge the level of interest that an under-17 World Cup might engender. Would seeing the same group of teams get stale? Or would basing an entire section of the round-robin phase work? What about simply flying teams in for matches and then out again?

He won't know the answers to those questions until the completion of his tour on February 23 but he is sure that hosting the event will be a massive boon for New Zealand.

"This will be a true World Cup, a truly world event where you'll see players of the highest calibre," Blazer said.

"What you'll also get is an event which gives New Zealand a lot more exposure than they get from any of the traditional games that are played here in women's sports. Netball is good, it's fun, but where else is it being played?

"This will expose New Zealand to the world and the natural beauty and assets of this country will be seen by a worldwide television audience."

That's definitely music to Meghan Sheppard's ears. The Napier City Rovers star is in the New Zealand under-17 squad preparing for 2008 and says taking the park here would be a dream come true.

"We'd just get so much support and so much coverage. We don't get as much attention as the boys, so it would be great," Sheppard said.

"Having people you know come to watch you play and to support you would be awesome."

The tournament dates have yet to be set but Blazer says October and November of 2008 is the preferred window.