This country has already played host to World Cups at both U-17 and U-20 level and another of FIFA’s flagship events may also soon be on its way.
New Zealand Football is one of eight national associations to put its hand up for the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2020 and months of meticulous planning and hard work finally came to fruition this month when the official bid document was submitted to FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
“Futsal holds an important place in New Zealand sport and we are excited to submit our bid to host the 2020 World Cup,” New Zealand Football Chief Executive Officer Andy Martin says.
“In doing so, we will share with other nations our mutual interest and ideas on developing futsal and continuing its elevation in the global sporting landscape.”
If the persuasive bid proves successful, New Zealand will become the first country in the Oceania region to ever host the prestigious event, which brings together the world’s best exponents of the hugely-popular indoor version of the beautiful game.
It would be a watershed moment for futsal in this country, which has experienced rapid growth since being brought under the umbrella of New Zealand Football in 2010.
Just a decade ago, futsal in New Zealand was a largely unrecognised, low-participation sport with a number of private operators running their own futsal businesses and minimal national organisation.
In the years since, New Zealand Football has turned the running of the sport into a fully-integrated, well-managed operation. It now runs as a department of the national body, which rolls out the sport through futsal development departments in each of the country’s seven regional football federations.
There are now over 20,000 registered futsal players in the country and it is the fastest-growing indoor team sport in the secondary school system.
“New Zealand Football and its federations have worked hard over the past seven years to establish futsal as a sporting option of choice for Kiwis,” Futsal Development Manager Dave Payne says.
“Hosting the pinnacle event of futsal will not only showcase our beautiful country but will also serve to share our learnings of developing an emerging sports system with the world. It would go a long way to achieving our goal of making futsal the nation’s best and biggest small-sided sport, as well as our futsal development programme being regarded as a world leader.”
In bidding for the event, New Zealand faces competition from Costa Rica, Croatia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania and the United Arab Emirates. The only continent not to have a nation in the running is South America, who will host the tournament on their soil next month at Colombia 2016.
Seven of the nation’s main cities – Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Rotorua and Tauranga – have already signalled their interest in hosting matches.
The necessary facilities and infrastructure are in place and, crucially, New Zealand has previously proven its ability to organise and run FIFA tournaments seamlessly after hosting the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Cup, 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The bid is supported by the New Zealand Government and the Oceania Football Confederation, the latter of whom New Zealand Football will work alongside in creating legacy opportunities that serve the whole region in the event of a successful bid.
New Zealand has never competed in a FIFA Futsal World Cup but the Oceania region has been represented in two previous tournaments by the Solomon Islands, who boast current squad members plying their trade in Brazil, the home of futsal. The ‘Kurukuru’ are ranked 43rd in the world and will take part in Colombia 2016.
The New Zealand ‘Futsal Whites’ are ranked 73rd but have won 14 of their last 15 matches and finished runners-up at this year’s OFC Futsal Championship, held in Fiji during February.
The FIFA Futsal World Cup is a hugely-significant event from a broadcasting point of view with television coverage of the 2012 edition reaching 138.6 million people around the world. Each live match was watched by an average in-home global audience of 2.2 million and the peak audience for the final was 24.9 million.
Attendance-wise, Brazil topped the overall record in 2008 with a total of 292,161 spectators.