The historic Hotel de Beauharnais provided the ideal setting for the sixth stop on the official FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ Welcome Tour, as German ambassador to France Reinhard Schafers welcomed around 150 guests to his Parisian residence.
Among those in attendance were Organising Committee President Steffi Jones, French Football Federation (FFF) President Fernand Duchaussoy, German FA (DFB) General Secretary Wolfgang Niersbach, France women's national team coach Bruno Bini, a host of French internationals and FIFA Head of Women's Competitions Tatjana Haenni.
"The 70,000 tickets sold for France's three group games, including 40,000 for the match against Germany in Monchengladbach, are a clear indication of the appeal of the French women's national team. The increasing popularity of women's football in France will be reflected in the stadiums," said Jones, who made the three-hour-and-49-minute train journey from Frankfurt to the French capital along with DFB General Secretary Niersbach on Monday morning.
"The 2011 Women's World Cup gives us a wonderful opportunity to further cement the great relationship that exists between Germany and France," said Niersbach. FFF President Duchassouy was reciprocal in his enthusiasm: "Not only will the facilities in Germany be world-class, but the atmosphere will be too."
Emblematic of the friendly relations between the two countries is 51-time German international Celia Okoyino da Mbabi. "It's a great honour to play for the German team. As the German-born daughter of a French mother and a Cameroonian father, our group game against France is going to be a very special occasion for me," said the SC 07 Bad Neuenahr midfielder, joining the event via video conference.
High hopes for France
France, who are gearing up for their second FIFA Women's World Cup having previously taken part at USA 2003, kick off their tournament against Nigeria at 15.00 CET in Sinsheim. Later that same day, hosts Germany begin their campaign against Canada following the official opening ceremony at the Berlin Olympiastadion.
"We certainly didn't get an easy draw in a group with Nigeria, Canada and Germany. Ultimately, we're up against the champions of Africa, North America and Europe. Still, my girls aren't afraid of the big occasion. Quite the opposite in fact: we're looking forward to the challenge. A good showing from our team would help promote the development of women's football in France no end," said national coach Bini.
The official FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 Welcome Tour continues on Wednesday, 23 February in Stockholm.