A visit to Sweden on Wednesday 23 February 2011 proved to be an ideal way to round off the first half of the official FIFA Women's World Cup 2011™ Welcome Tour, organised by FIFA and the competition’s Organising Committee (OC).
"Our main aim is to go and personally invite every country and every national association to come to Germany. It's a genuine gesture and so far, we have had nothing but positive feedback," said OC President Steffi Jones, who had already visited Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, England, Norway and France before journeying to Stockholm.
"I am delighted that our Welcome Tour has been so warmly received in seven countries already," she said. "Everyone has made it clear that they are looking forward to the tournament and also that they have high expectations of Germany as hosts, and this excitement is what spurs us on to do our job on the Organising Committee."
As was the case in the previous cities on the tour, Stockholm was also treated to the informative and entertaining Countdown Event. This was the main part of the OC's presentation and also saw former Swedish international Patrik Andersson, who enjoyed time at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Blackburn Rovers in his playing days, chosen by Jones as Sweden's 'Super Fan'.
"I enjoyed the 2006 World Cup in Germany as a Sweden supporter and I'm absolutely convinced that the Women's World Cup will be just as exciting an event," said Andersson, who is a board member at current Swedish women's league winners LdB FC Malmo.
Former UEFA President and honorary DFB member Lennart Johansson, who received a video message during the proceedings from DFB General Secretary Wolfgang Niersbach, and German ambassador to Sweden Joachim Rucker were among the 200 guests invited by the OC to the warm and friendly Berns Hotel in the centre of Stockholm. Shortly before the Welcome event began, Susanne Erlandsson, vice-president of the Swedish FA, gave a press conference to launch a specific FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 campaign, the aim of which is to attract thousands of Swedish fans to Germany in the summer as was the case with a similar programme organised around the 2006 FIFA World Cup™.
The OC President and her delegation spent around 40 hours in the Swedish capital, which included a visit to women's first-division club Djurgarden IF and a meeting in the historic Rasunda Stadium with leading members of the Organising Committee for the 2013 UEFA Women's EURO. The legendary Stockholm venue is, along with the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, the only stadium to host the finals of both the men's and women's FIFA World Cup.
This may have been more or less the mid-point of the world tour, but there will be no half-time break for Jones and her colleagues. Once all of the participating nations in Europe have been visited, Jones and her team will head off on Thursday 3 March 2011 to Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, before visiting Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, USA and Japan. The final leg of the tour will be in Korea DPR on 2 April.