Soccer lovers in Australia and New Zealand yesterday offered rare praise for FIFA’s transparency after the southern hemisphere neighbors won the hosting rights for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The decision, announced by Switzerland-based FIFA in what was the early hours of the morning in Australia and New Zealand, sparked emotional reactions among sleep-deprived players and fans.
“I will never forget this moment,” New Zealand captain Ali Riley wrote on Twitter alongside a close-up selfie showing tears in her eyes.
Australia captain Sam Kerr posted footage of her trademark tumbling backflip goal celebration, saying playing in a home tournament would be “a dream come true.”
“We have seen great progress in the women’s game and Australia-New Zealand will take the game to a whole new level,” Kerr said.
Socceroos great Tim Cahill said that he was “lost for words,” while Hollywood star Russell Crowe wrote “Let’s do this” on Twitter.
“I haven’t slept, I’ll have to do that another night, it’s worth it though,” New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Pragnell said between what he called “well-timed coffees.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised the ninth edition of the tournament would be the best ever.
“It will be a historic tournament of firsts that will create a profound and enduring legacy for women’s football in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond,” Ardern said in a statement.
The 2023 tournament is to be the first cohosted, the first in the southern hemisphere and the first with 32 teams.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailed a “landmark decision” for sport in the region.
“For the first time in history, Australians and New Zealanders will be able to experience a global football tournament, right here on home soil,” he wrote on Twitter.
The Sydney Morning Herald said that the result was “a triumph of merit over politics.”
“That the majority of FIFA’s council members from all corners of the globe voted on the grounds of merit is a major boost to the organisation’s damaged reputation,” it wrote.
Pragnell also praised the transparency of the bidding process, saying it showed that FIFA was moving in the right direction.
“This should be seen as a huge success for the reforms that have been made at FIFA and the global football community should be encouraged by the outcome,” he said.
Amid reports ahead of the vote that Colombia was gaining support, Pragnell said that Ardern had personally hit the telephones to lobby to get the bid over the line.
“We were cautiously optimistic, but knew it could go either way ... she made the calls and underlined the key messages of the bid,” he said.
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