After a journey that has taken in every single qualifier set to line up in Canada, the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015™ Live Your Goals Tour has completed the final leg of its 23-country trek.
From landing in Spain back in November to setting down in Switzerland, the global tour has travelled over 150,000 kilometres, seen by fans from China PR to Costa Rica, Norway to New Zealand. Giving a chance for supporters from each competing country to see the prize every team wants to take home after the Final in Vancouver on 5 July, awareness and excitement around the globe is expected to be greater than ever.
When the Live Your Goals Tour swung into the likes of Tokyo, Japan and Medellin, Colombia, fans were even able to mix with the stars themselves, while supporters attending the England-USA match in February and even Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan got a look at the sought-after trophy.
“Having the winner’s trophy at the stadium will provide a little bit of inspiration to the England players, and the USA,” reflected Rachel Brown-Finnis, a tour ambassador and former Three Lionesses goalkeeper ahead of the game. “It’s great that FIFA and The FA are showcasing the winner’s trophy and tournament with this global tour and hopefully it will encourage people to watch what is set to be a fantastic World Cup.”
Alongside the chance to get up close to the biggest prize in women's football, the Live Your Goals aspect of the tour looked to bring the excitement the game can provide to those who are still relatively new to football.
Girls of all ages were encouraged to take part in events and games to show them football is something that can be enjoyed by everyone. This saw school children in Australia and Japan learning new skills, university students in Korea Republic getting some top-level training, plus kids in Mexico and France getting to train and mingle with the national teams.
They’re dreaming of making the elite and I hope they get there, but first and foremost you need to get enjoyment out of it.
“It’s pretty amazing to have a day like this,” Les Bleues coach Philippe Bergeroo reflected. “It allows young girls the opportunity to rub shoulders with the French women’s team, watch them train and talk to them. An event like this is very important in terms of our continuing efforts to promote women’s football in France.”
While there the girls even got a few words of wisdom from FIFA Women's World Cup veteran Laura Georges. “I told them to enjoy what they’re doing. They’re dreaming of making the elite and I hope they get there, but first and foremost you need to get enjoyment out of it.”
Events like these captured the spirit of the global tour, with its aim of letting fans get a taste of the excitement Canada 2015 hopes to bring in the stadiums, while showing the joy everyone can get from any football pitch. “It’s wonderful to be here and see the national team training and the media looking on, to see children playing in a football tournament and for them to have the chance to meet the players they admire,” FIFA Deputy Director of Competitions Tatjana Haenni said during the event at Clairefontaine in France.
And she believes all the Live Your Goals events can plant seeds that the FIFA Women's World Cup will help grow into a long-lasting love of football. “There’s a strong link between competition and development. If you’re talking about grassroots football, a World Cup can help increase the number of young girls taking up the game. If the quality is there and resources are in place, then the pace of development increases.”
Mayrilian Cruz-Blanco, FIFA Senior Women’s Football Development Manager, added: “Live Your Goals is FIFA’s dedicated development campaign to strengthen the image of women’s football and to increase the number of girls and young women who play and participate in football. Over the course of this tour, we’ve been able to raise awareness about the initiative and showcase how it has been successfully implemented across a number of our member associations.”
The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 will be a great tournament and the next big step for women’s football.
With the women's game constantly growing, the opportunity to focus on the organisational side of matters was not missed, with many of the visited governing bodies using the tour as a chance to present their plans for the future.
In Japan the opportunity was taken to reflect on their recent success, looking back on victories at Germany 2011 and the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2014 with the winning coaches Norio Sasaki and Asako Takakura. Former players Kyoko Yano, Nozomi Yamago and Fukushini were also on hand, discussing how women's football is developing there and how the game interacts with Japanese values.
The tour had a fitting finale in Switzerland, the first country to qualify for Canada 2015, with FIFA President Blatter and members of the Swiss women’s national team showcasing the trophy during a packed-out UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying match between Switzerland and Estonia at Lucerne’s Swissporarena. FIFA President Blatter made a statement at a press conference in Lucerne:
“I’m really glad about the interest that the Swiss media shows for women’s football," Blatter said. "I’m particularly happy that the last stage of the FIFA Women's World Cup Live Your Goals Tour takes place in Switzerland. It’s a fantastic opportunity to promote the tournament and women’s football. You see a happy FIFA President. I have to be neutral, but allow me to say that it’s simply great that the Swiss Team has qualified for Canada. Congratulations to the Swiss Team, to the coach and to all players. A special thanks goes to my FIFA team, which has done a great job for women’s football and for this Tour in the last years, months and weeks. The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 will be a great tournament and the next big step for women’s football. I’m really looking forward to it."
Following the conclusion of the global tour in Lucerne, the focus will turn to Canada with the launch of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola, which will see the Original Trophy traverse the country before ultimately being presented to the captain of the new champions on 5 July in BC Place Stadium, Vancouver.