New Zealand’s Auckland City become the first Oceania team to win a medal at the FIFA Club World Cup on Saturday after they defeated Cruz Azul 4-2 in a penalty shootout to claimed third place in the tournament.
New Zealand soccer’s governing body wasted little time in seeking to capitalize on the amateur club’s victory.
The Oceania champions shocked many pundits by making the semi-finals and their victory ensured a lucrative payday for soccer in New Zealand, with Auckland City entitled to half of the more than NZ$3 million (US$2.32 million) in prize money they won.
The remainder will go to New Zealand Football (NZF), who will disperse it among the eight other teams in their top-tier amateur club competition and use it to boost their own high-performance funding.
“Our recently launched high performance strategy — Beyond Football — sets in place a path to ensure we as a game are able to achieve the type of success Auckland City has produced this month on the biggest stages on a regular basis,” NZF chief executive Andy Martin said in a statement. “The funds coming back into the game as a result of their success will be used with that end firmly in mind.”
The Auckland team’s unlikely run through the competition garnered massive interest in rugby-mad New Zealand, with the games shown live on television and their progress leading sports news bulletins and the back pages of newspapers.
Television networks also crossed live to the club’s Kiwitea Street ground for reaction during the semi-final.
“When you look at the response here in New Zealand during Auckland City’s run it is obvious there is a big football audience in this country and it is our aim to mobilize that audience on a more regular basis in the future,” Martin added. “On behalf of everyone associated with football in New Zealand I congratulate Auckland City FC on their marvelous achievement on the world stage.”
Auckland return home to the national club competition and a clash with the Wellington Phoenix development side on Jan. 11.
However, several of the players could be on the radar of professional clubs, with the New Zealand Herald reporting that former Everton defender John Irving was the most likely to attract attention after strong performances in Morocco.
As they celebrated Naomi Osaka’s victory in the final of the US Open in New York City’s Flushing Meadows on Saturday, Tokyoites were eager to embrace their heroines’ stand against racial injustice. Osaka, who won her third Grand Slam title with a victory over Victoria Azarenka, has used her platform to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, wearing a mask bearing the name of a different African American before each of her seven matches in the championship. She had donned masks bearing the names of Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Philando Castile. On Saturday, she walked
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
THOROUGH THRASHING: Hualien City beat Taichung Blue Whale 2-1, ending their three-year winning streak with one round of matches left and eight points to spare Hualien City on Saturday clinched this year’s Taiwan Mulan Football League title with one game to spare, by beating Taichung Blue Whale 2-1 at Fu Jen Catholic University in New Taipei City. Hualien City have scored 38 points this season. Blue Whale are second on the scoreboard with 30 points, while Taipei Bravo are third with 23 points. One final round of matches is to be played on Saturday. It is the fourth league trophy for Hualien City, and ends Blue Whale’s three-year winning streak. Hualien had won the title from 2014 to 2016. Both teams defended well, leaving few chances in front
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7