New Zealand’s Dunedin / Ōtepoti is just a few months away from becoming the most southerly city to host a men’s or women’s FIFA World Cup match. While that slice of history awaits, for now the locals had their appetites whetted for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – Australia & New Zealand when the Unity Pitch came to town over the weekend.
The Unity Pitch, which is touring each Host City ahead of July and August’s football extravaganza, offered a remarkable array of varied entertainment options. There was a girls-only mini World Cup, street football, adapted football and much more. And of course tournament mascot Tazuni couldn’t stay away!
The FIFA Women’s World Cup is an event that brings together different people and cultures. It is a symbol of unity and the progressiveness the beautiful game represents in culture today.
With that in mind, local football association Southern Football unified different sports by hosting ‘Fern Fever’, an event which celebrated the rare occurrence of three Women’s World Cups (rugby, cricket and football) taking place – or soon to be taking place – in New Zealand. It allowed the 700 children in attendance to spend the day trying three different sports.
The event, which was hosted almost in the shadows of Dunedin Stadium, took place in the middle of Southern Football’s Girls and Women’s Month. And the turnout was exceptional.
“It’s awesome to see so many girls allowed out of school to play girls-only sport on the Unity Pitch,” said Southern Football Girls and Women Development Officer Jess Fuller. “It makes them feel a bit more valued.”
Dunedin will host six 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup matches, including New Zealand’s concluding Group A match against Switzerland.
As a taste of what is to come, long-serving New Zealand international Annalie Longo, who was on hand to help with activities in Dunedin / Ōtepoti, said the Unity Pitch and the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will provide inspiration to local youngsters.
“People can expect nothing like they’ve ever seen before,” said Longo, who has appeared in four Women’s World Cups. “You’ll see how big women’s football has grown. The tournament will be a massive showcase of women’s sport.”