Following a shooting incident in Auckland, co-hosts Australia and New Zealand began their respective FIFA Women’s World Cup openers in front of record audiences.
Co-hosts Following a shooting outside the Norwegian team hotel in Auckland that left three dead and six injured, Australia and New Zealand launched the ninth Women’s World Cup with victories and record crowds on Thursday. The shooter was among those slain, police said, and the threat posed by the event had passed, while New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins declared there was no threat to national security.
Following an opening ceremony that included the famed Haka battle dance, Hannah Wilkinson’s magnificent goal at Eden Park was the difference in the 1-0 triumph over Norway. The audience of 42,137 broke the previous record for an international football match set by the host country.
Following the shooting in New Zealand’s largest city, authorities increased police and security around the stadium. “Seeing the increased police presence, I feel a lot safer now knowing that they’re keeping an eye on things,” Isabella Beeortegui, a 22-year-old student attending the opening ceremony, said.
“I’m overjoyed. The energy is insane. Everyone seemed to be overjoyed to be here.” FIFA, football’s governing body, issued a statement saying it was assisting teams in the area of the event.
“FIFA has been informed that this was an isolated incident unrelated to football operations,” the statement stated. “The opening match tonight at Eden Park will proceed as planned.”
The city’s fan park will stay closed on Thursday, according to organizers. “Everyone woke up fairly quickly when the helicopter remained outside the hotel window and a lot of emergency vehicles arrived – at first we didn’t know what was going on, but eventually we got updates on TV and the local media,” said Norway captain Maren Mjelde, according to Verdens Gang.
Women were barred from official facilities in England, the game’s birthplace, until 1970, and many other nations endured similar prejudice. However, the sport has grown in popularity in recent years, with significant increases in female participants and spectators worldwide.
Tracey Taylor, a sports management professor at RMIT University in Melbourne, said many grassroots football club members expected the competition to have a revolutionary effect on women’s sport participation in Australia.
She added that they believe it is a game changer for them in terms of promoting the sport not just worldwide, but also within the local community and boosting awareness. Nonetheless, in many nations, circumstances for female footballers continue to lag well behind those for males.
This Monday, the Matildas published a video denouncing the “disrespect” for the women’s game, which compelled them to play on artificial fields in the 2015 competition and prize money that still trails below the men’s World Cup. In recent months, several competing nations, notably tournament giants England and Spain, have been in disagreement with their administrators about working conditions and remuneration.
DEMAND DOWN UNDER
Players like Kerr are household names in sport-crazed Australia, with tickets for home-country matches selling out months in advance. “I’m sure that each member of Australia will be cheering the team tonight,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a radio interview with national broadcaster ABC on Thursday.
Demand has been lower in New Zealand, whose athletic culture is dominated by rugby union and its famed All Blacks, with tickets remaining for several matchups. FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura said ticket sales had already surpassed the total amount sold for the last tournament in France, although sales in New Zealand had trailed behind its much bigger neighbor.
“We know that Kiwis are late ticket purchasers when it comes to tournaments played on their shores,” she said during a news conference in Auckland on Wednesday.
“There are still tickets available for some matches.” So my only request is that you do not wait until the last minute.”
Grant Robertson, New Zealand’s Sports Minister, urged Kiwis on Wednesday to buy the “limited” available tickets for the opening match.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of New Zealanders to experience a top-tier FIFA World Cup event,” he added.