'Merit over politics' as women's World Cup heads Down Under
Football lovers in Australia and New Zealand offered rare praise for FIFA's transparency Friday after the southern hemisphere neighbours were chosen to host the 2023 women's World Cup.
The decision, announced in the early hours of the morning in the newly anointed host nations, sparked emotional reactions among sleep-deprived footballers and fans.
"I will never forget this moment," New Zealand captain Ali Riley tweeted alongside a close-up selfie showing tears in her eyes.
Australia's women's captain Sam Kerr posted footage of her trademark tumbling backflip goal celebration, saying playing in a home tournament was "a dream come true".
"We have seen great progress in the women's game and Australia-New Zealand will take the game to a whole new level," she said.
Socceroos great Tim Cahill said he was "lost for words", while Hollywood star Russell Crowe -- who has links to both Australia and New Zealand -- tweeted "Let's do this".
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised the ninth edition of the tournament would be the best ever.
"It will be a historic tournament of firsts that will create a profound and enduring legacy for women's football in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond," she said in a statement.
The bid's success creates a trifecta for New Zealand, which has already secured rights to host the women's cricket and rugby world cups next year.
- 'Timely boost' -
It also helps ease painful memories in Australia of the unsuccessful bid to host the 2022 men's World Cup, when it was frontrunner but the event was controversially given to Qatar.
Recalling that decision, made in 2010, football commentator Craig Foster offered commiserations to Colombia, which ended up being the joint bid's only rival for 2023 after a string of other candidate countries dropped out.
"We know full well how it feels to lose," Foster said.
"The tournament is an important and timely boost for Australia and NZ soccer and enhances the truly global nature of football."
The Sydney Morning Herald said the result was "a triumph of merit over politics".
"That the majority of FIFA's council members from all corners of the globe voted on the grounds of merit is a major boost to the organisation's damaged reputation," it said.
"After allegations of collusion and corruption, (FIFA president Gianni) Infantino embarked on the most transparent process seen with the voting of a major tournament."
New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Pragnell praised the way FIFA had run the bid process.
"I do think it's a great outcome for FIFA, in terms of the process, and the fact that it was transparent. I think transparency helped with the eventual outcome," he told the stuff.co.nz website.
Amid reports ahead of the vote that Colombia was gaining support, he revealed that Ardern had personally hit the phones lobbying to get the bid over the line.
"It was genuinely something that we didn't have certainty on, knowing how these things have gone in the past... she was willing to get on and make sure the key messages of the bid were heard and that's brilliant."
© 2020 AFP