New Zealand welcomes football world

New Zealand has welcomed the football world as the country readies to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015.

Most of the 24 teams have arrived in New Zealand for the tournament that will be played out in seven host cities from 30 May – 20 June. The tournament kicks off on Saturday, 30 May, with New Zealand taking on the Ukraine at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium.

Traditional welcome 

The United States and Myanmar – two FIFA U-20 World Cup teams that will play most of their group games in Auckland and Whangarei – were given their first taste of unique Kiwi hospitality during a traditional Māori welcome ceremony at Whangarei’s Terenga Paraoa Marae.

Both teams were greeted onto the Terenga Paraoa Marae with a spectacular and emotional powhiri (Māori welcome).  As is tradition, the welcome included a haka (Māori war chant), waiata (song) and a spine-tingling performance by the highly accomplished kapa haka group Te Puu Ao. The teams were then presented with a blessed taonga –Māori treasure.

The welcome for both the USA and Myanmar was befitting of the North Island city of Whangarei -gateway to the Far North of New Zealand and the marine playground of the Bay of Islands. Whangarei is a city steeped in cultural history and spirituality, thanks in part to the early settlement of the Ngai Tahuhu iwi (tribe) who made the fertile coastal land of Whangarei their home.

The USA - veterans of the FIFA U-20 World Cup with 12 appearances - will begin their campaign against tournament newcomers Myanmar at Whangarei’s Northland Events Centre on 30 May. 

South American flair

At Wellington airport on Tuesday (26.5.15) it was all about Argentina as the football powerhouse touched down in New Zealand just a few days before taking on Panama in the second kick-off of the opening day at Wellington’s Regional Stadium. 

Argentina was warmly welcomed to New Zealand with a kapa haka performance by two local schools. The players also took part in a traditional hongi (Māori greeting) and were each gifted a blessed pounamu (New Zealand greenstone jade) by the local iwi (tribe).

Argentina – one of the most highly regarded nations of the football world - will be in good hands in Wellington, a city that boasts a strong football community that backs the Wellington Phoenix – New Zealand’s only professional football club.

European hopes 

The German U-20 football team arrived in the South Island city of Christchurch on Wednesday (27.05.15) where they will be hoping to emulate the heroics of the men’s senior side that won the FIFA World Cup in Brazil 2014.

The team were treated to a traditional Māori welcome on arrival into Christchurch International Airport – the gateway to the splendours of New Zealand’s South Island – with their captain, Kevin Akpoguma experiencing a traditional Māori hongi (Māori greeting).

Members of the squad were also gifted a pounamu blessed by the local Māori.

Germany will kick off their FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign against Oceania hopefuls Fiji at Christchurch Stadium on Monday, 1 June (NZT). 

The European footballers will play all their group games in the ‘Garden City’ of Christchurch.

About the FIFA U-20 World Cup

Broadcast to more than 100 countries, with a global reach of around 170 million people, the FIFA U-20 World Cup will also help promote New Zealand to the world. Thousands of overseas football fans are expected to travel to the country in support of their team.