Welcome Tour kicks off in Sydney

The FIFA and Local Organising Committee Welcome Tour of all participating nations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ has kicked off in enjoyable fashion on a balmy Sydney evening, exactly 200 days out from the start of the tournament.

Australia was seemingly an appropriate venue to commence the Welcome Tour, with the Matildas being the first to nation to qualify for Germany 2011, which they did last May en route to winning their first Asian crown. By a quirk of fate, Sydney was also the last stop where Franz Beckenbauer concluded his Welcome Tour in the run-up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™.

Some 150 guests assembled at the Westin Hotel in the heart of the Sydney CBD to hear LOC President Steffi Jones and Tatjana Haenni, FIFA Head of Women’s Football Competitions, talk with equal parts enthusiasm and pride about next year’s women’s football showpiece.

Among the invitees were a dozen members of the Australia team and coach Tom Sermanni, Australia’s first women’s captain Julie Dolan, long-serving former Socceroo skipper Paul Wade, FFA Chief Executive Ben Buckley and members of the Football Federation Australia board, as well as German Consul General Hans Gnodtke.

We are hoping to open doors and leave some sort of legacy .

Local media also provided a strong presence as did members of the Australian-German community, for whom current Australia coach, and former German assistant coach, Holger Osieck, proved to be a special attraction.

The Welcome Tour began with a congratulatory video message from FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, before Steffi Jones and Tatjana Haenni briefed those assembled on the foundations that have been laid for Germany 2011 and the women’s game in general.

An interactive Q&A followed with key guests called on to stage, where they were presented with gifts from another special visitor, Karla Kick, the official mascot for next year's FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The event marked a long-awaited return to Australia for Steffi Jones, who was last Down Under as a member of the German team which performed with distinction at the 2000 Olympics.

The LOC President talking with genuine warmth about her memories of that tournament, which began with an opening match against none other than Australia.

“We are hoping to open doors and leave some sort of legacy ,” said Steffi Jones of the Welcome Tour’s aims. “We are also seeking to show our respect to the teams that are coming and provide a first welcome like they will receive in Germany next year.”

The other 15 countries participating at Germany 2011 will all receive Welcome Tour visits with New Zealand the next port of call on Friday.