Legacy key to Ambassadors Tour
© FIFA.com

From its very inception, the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup New Zealand 2008 has been about a great deal more than showcasing the game's best emerging female talent. At its heart has been securing a legacy for the Host Nation that provides a sustained boost to football - and women's football in particular - in a country traditionally dominated by the oval ball.

On Thursday, with the showpiece event now just three weeks away, the bid to guarantee this legacy will move up a gear with the commencement of an Official FIFA Ambassadors Tour of six New Zealand cities. The three ambassadors in question - Michele Cox, Carolina Morace and Wynton Rufer - are to spend a fortnight visiting schools, clubs, tertiary institutions and community events across the country to outline and reinforce the appeal of the beautiful game.

All will deliver practical sessions for coaches at both elite and grassroots levels as well as presentations on their respective careers in football, and this trio certainly have inspirational stories to tell. Morace, for example, is a legendary former Italy player and coach who made history by becoming the first and, to date, only woman in history to coach a men's professional team.

I hope that I can help to promote what will be a wonderful event and also contribute to the development of women's football and football in general in a nation that obviously has a lot of sporting talent
Carolina Morace on what can be achieved during the tour.

"I am very excited about coming to New Zealand," said the former Viterbese boss. "."

Rufer, meanwhile, is renowned as the greatest footballer in New Zealand's history; indeed he was named FIFA's Oceania Footballer of the Century, recognising a glorious career with the likes of Werder Bremen, Kaiserlautern and FC Zurich. As for Cox, she is the woman who, as 'bid chief', did more than anyone to bring the first-ever FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup to Kiwi soil, her latest contribution to a nation she has served with distinction as player and administrator.

For Cox, whose patriotism is only matched by her passion for football, the opportunity to take the beautiful game on tour round New Zealand promises to be a labour of love. As she told FIFA.com: "It will be a fantastic opportunity not only to help promote the upcoming tournament in its final countdown weeks, but also to develop the women's game and the game in general with the knowledge, experience and passion of two absolute legends in the game - Carolina and Wynton.

"I really hope that we can inspire more children and adults alike to get involved in the beautiful game and to see just what can be achieved, regardless of what level you are at as a coach, player, volunteer or administrator. There is really something for everyone in football and our combined experiences after retiring from international football show that."

The Ambassadors tour will take in all four FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Host Cities, plus Dunedin and Napier, with the programme as follows;

Auckland - 9 (media day), 22-24 October
Dunedin - 10, 11 October
Christchurch - 12-14 October
Wellington - 15-17 October
Napier - 18, 19 October
Hamilton - 20, 21 October