New Zealand is to host another major global sporting event having won the rights to host the 2015 FIFA U-20 football World Cup - which will be watched by more than 500 million fans worldwide.
New Zealand beat Wales in the bid for the prestigious event, FIFA announced in Zurich today (4.3.11).
One of the deciding factors was New Zealand’s hosting of this year’s Rugby World Cup as well as the successful staging of the Under-17 World Cup and Under-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand in 2008.
With 24 nations and 52 matches, the FIFA U-20 World Cup is the international football body’s second largest tournament behind the senior men’s event, and rivals the FIFA Women’s World Cup as its next most important.
The tournament is broadcast in over 200 countries and has a cumulative audience of around 500 million viewers.
The final of Egypt 2009, between Brazil and Ghana, alone drew a global audience of over 25 million people. The qualifying process for this year’s edition in Colombia attracted 179 nations.
“Put simply, it’s huge,” said New Zealand Football chairman Frank van Hattum.
“Outside the FIFA World Cup, the U-20 event is about as big as it gets, and for FIFA to award us the honour and responsibility of hosting is a great vote of confidence given its scale, significance and world-wide interest.”
The FIFA U-20 World Cup has been the launching pad for many of football’s past and present superstars including Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.
“It’s highly likely that the world’s biggest football nations will qualify and we’ll have the likes of Brazil, Spain, England, Germany and Argentina on our doorstep and among that talent will be the next global superstar.
“I’ve got no doubt that Kiwi sporting fans will get excited about watching the global game in our backyard, and it will inspire, or even produce, the next generation of All Whites.”
New Zealand venues
The New Zealand venues for the tournament are yet to be named but it’s believed there will be six different host cities.
“We’ve got four years to prepare and the hard work starts now. There are some important decisions to be made, not least around host cities but Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are top of the list. I’m sure there will be a lot of interest given the economic impact for a region,” said van Hattum.
He also acknowledged the role that New Zealand hosting the Rugby World Cup had played in the success of the country’s bid and said New Zealand 2015 would have cross-code benefits.
“Having revitalised stadia and an enhanced hosting capacity was vital for landing a tournament of this size, and it certainly would have helped our cause in the eyes of FIFA.”
He said the event would maintain and enhance New Zealand’s reputation and capability to host major events of all shapes and sizes.
SPARC (Sport and Recreation NZ), New Zealand Major Events, the New Zealand Government and local councils had combined resources to bid for the world cup.
SPARC Chief Executive Peter Miskimmin said it was an amazing opportunity for Kiwi fans and youngsters, in particular, to see and be inspired by the up and coming stars of world football on home soil.
“This is a golden time for football in New Zealand and it’s a story that just keeps on going. It’s a sport that is doing well at the high performance end with the All Whites, and at the grass roots. Winning this event is recognition of the success football is having in New Zealand, both on and off the field.
“The FIFA U-20 World Cup is a highly sought after event and countries compete strongly to host it. So, for New Zealand to win the bid is fantastic and New Zealand Football is to be congratulated on this,” said Miskimmin.
Last year the All Whites became New Zealand heroes and hit the world headlines when they became the only unbeaten team at the World Cup in South Africa.