New Zealand's media, sponsors, local government and football
community came together with FIFA last week in an attempt to
maximise the legacy left by the forthcoming FIFA U-17 Women's
All four host cities - Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton - staged their own FIFA Com-Unity course as seminars were presented by the likes of Heike Ullrich, the DFB's Head of Women's Football, FIFA Executive Committee Member Harold Mayne-Nicholls, Kelly Simmons, the FA's Head of Football Development and Jurg Nepfer.
Nepfer, FIFA's Head of Development Programmes and selector of instructors, spoke in Auckland to emphasise the scope for New Zealand 2008 creating a legacy that benefits countless Kiwi generations. He said: "Hosting this tournament provides the opportunity to develop new programmes and new partners as well as improve the social recognition of women's football and women in sport. Other benefits will include better sporting infrastructure and improved event management skills."
Nepfur further advised the Local Organsing Committee (LOC) to be prepared for a surge in player participation rates following the tournament. He said: "After New Zealand hosted the inaugural men's FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1999, there was a big boom in the number of young kids who wanted to play. It will no doubt be the same after this year's tournament."
Simmons, one of the most influential figures in English football, fully concurred, and she was able to offer a few suggestons on how to cope with the potential influx of female players. "With the help of funding from the FA, we've been able to employ someone in each region who is devoted to developing the women's game," said Simmons, who is a director of England's FA. "We've also successfully attracted a lot more female coaches and that's been critical."
The hosts gained immensely from their guests' knowledge, but it wasn't merely a one-way educational process, as Heike Ullrich, Head of Tournament Organisation for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 explained. "I got great ideas from the LOC and other speakers which I can take back into my job," said Ullrich. "These seminars show it's not just the smaller footballing countries learning from the bigger footballing countries - it can also be the other way around."
Ullrich also praised the LOC for their plan to actively go into New Zealand schools later this year and educate children about a game that has traditionally found itself in the shadow of rugby. She said: "If young boys and girls hear the background and culture of a country playing in their city, they will become connected to that team and go out and support them."
Harold Mayne-Nicholls, President of the Chile Football Federation and in charge of development in South America for FIFA, was similarly impressed by the LOC's plan to give souvenirs and New Zealand information packs to all visiting teams and their staff. He said: "We will look to do something similar at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Chile because it will help boost tourism by attracting people back to our country."
As for the hosts themselves, Chris Simpson, CEO of the LOC, was left to reflect on a hugely successful series of courses. "These seminars foster close cooperation between all stakeholders," he said, "and that's exactly what is needed to run a successful tournament."