New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Helen Clark, today (Tuesday, 20 February) welcomed a five-member FIFA delegation to Parliament House in Wellington where she expressed her full support for her country’s hosting of the FIFA-U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2008. “This event will be a perfect catalyst to use as role modelling for young girls here in New Zealand. It fits very well with our “Mission on” health and sports programme and we will be able to develop some very important initiatives around this event. We want you to tell the FIFA President how big this event is for us Kiwis,” the Prime Minister emphasised to FIFA and LOC representatives led by FIFA Executive Committee member and Organising Committee chairman Chuck Blazer (USA).

She assured the members of the delegation that her government would support the Local Organising Committee’s efforts to make next year’s inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup a long-lasting success. “New Zealand is a sporting country and all Kiwis will be behind our team when we welcome the 16 best teams in this age group next year. This FIFA competition is very good for New Zealand,” she added.

Having traversed New Zealand to inspect stadiums, training sites and hotels in the cities of Napier, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland, Chuck Blazer expressed his full confidence in the New Zealand Soccer Association’s ability to put on a world-class event in late 2008. “This inspection is just the first step in the process of evaluating and finalising the selection of stadiums and infrastructure needed for the competition. I must say I am very pleased with the professionalism and organisation the FIFA delegation has seen during the course of this week,” said Blazer. “I am particularly happy with the strong support for the tournament that has been voiced by the government – particularly the Prime Minister – and the various city officials we’ve met. It is our goal that the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup will leave a lasting legacy to support the development of football in New Zealand, and through their continued cooperation, FIFA and the New Zealand Soccer Association will no doubt reach that target.”

The tour ends on Thursday with a special match between local media representatives and members of the New Zealand women’s U-17 national team at the North Harbour Stadium in Auckland. Sixteen teams, comprising representatives from all six confederations, will take part in the final competition. New Zealand have a guaranteed place in the tournament as the host nation. It is the second time that the country has been chosen to host the premiere of a FIFA youth tournament, having also been the setting for the first FIFA U-17 World Championship (now FIFA U-17 World Cup) in 1999. The dates of next year’s event will be confirmed by the FIFA Executive Committee at its meeting in Zurich in March.