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Sports News

Australia, New Zealand bask in glow of Women's World Cup 'treasure'

MELBOURNE/WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Australia and New Zealand on Friday hailed victory in a groundbreaking bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, promising to turn the “treasure” of the tournament into a spur for gender equity and fairness.

The Sydney Opera House lights up in celebration of Australia and New Zealand's joint bid to host the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023, in Sydney, Australia, June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

The trans-Tasman neighbours will unite for the first Women’s World Cup to be hosted by more than one country after FIFA Council members voted 22-13 in favour of their bid over Colombia.

“We have been given a treasure,” New Zealand Football (NZF) Federation President Johanna Wood said.

“We will look after the treasure and make women’s football even more front and centre and we will do that as a team.”

Players on the national women’s teams celebrated wildly in the early hours of Friday after nervously watching streams of the vote.

“WE DID IT. WE FREAKING DID IT,” Australia striker Sam Kerr tweeted after posting a picture of herself doing a cartwheel during a match.

“It was a long wait,” New Zealand striker Hannah Wilkinson told TVNZ of the vote.

“All of this anticipation was filling the room.

“I completely blacked out for a second. Honestly, it was just total joy. This is going to be absolutely amazing and I’m a bit speechless.”

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern promised the “largest ... and the best Women’s World Cup” ever staged.

“For the first time in history, Australians and New Zealanders will be able to experience a tier one football tournament on home soil,” they said in a joint statement.

They added it would help drive Australia’s goal of achieving an equal split of male and female participation in the game by 2027, and that it recognised NZF’s focus on pay equity and equal treatment for female players.

GREAT MOMENT

Both soccer federations had emphasised in the bid how hosting the tournament would boost soccer in two broad regions.

Australia is a member of the Asian soccer confederation, while New Zealand dominates the Pacific region of Oceania.

“There hasn’t been a Women’s World Cup in this region or in the southern hemisphere so there’s new ground to be developed here,” Ros Moriarty, the chair of FFA’s Women’s Football Council told Reuters.

“The cross-confederation aspect is a big plus. It allows us to reach out to friends in Asia and as well as in Oceania.”

Football Federation Australia boss James Johnson hailed the result as a “great moment for the country” but also took a moment to lay the boot into England for voting against the bid.

English FA Chairman Greg Clarke voted along continental lines with European governing body UEFA in backing Colombia.

“I think that was quite disrespectful to be perfectly honest with you,” said Johnson.

NZF Chief Executive Andrew Pragnell was more focused on how the World Cup could inspire young girls, including his 10-year-old daughter Ari and her 12-year-old sister Zoe.

“For young girls like my daughters to be able to see and look up to these athletes is enormous,” he told Reuters.

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne and Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Christian Radnedge/Peter Rutherford

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