The Taranaki community has enthusiastically embraced their role as a host city for the FIFA U-20 World Cup as the tournament moves into its second week of play.
This week they opened their arms to the Brazilian national team ahead of their match with Hungary at Stadium Taranaki.
The Brazil team was given a true Taranaki welcome when they first arrived with a powhiri at Owae Marae in Waitara to ensure they began their stay in a memorable way.
In response to the welcome the South Americans performed their own dance and song which got the crowd stomping their feet and clapping their hands in the air.
In between trainings the team have managed to find time to visit a school, a hospital and also took part in a signing session for fans.
Players were given a hero’s welcome at Oakura Primary School when they entered the school hall to 200 excited children chanting “Brazil, Brazil”.
The players were overwhelmed at the support and spent time in the small town school playing keepy uppy and taking part in a penalty shootout competition.
Brazil’s star player and Manchester United recruit Andreas Pereira delighted the children’s ward at Taranaki Base Hospital when he popped in to visit. The kids got a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to get their pictures taken with the young midfielder.
In town, the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015 Fever Pitch fan hub gave the public access to the team as players happily signed autographs for excited children and fans alike.
“Having the tournament in New Plymouth has been fantastic for the sport but also for locals, who are getting to meet these young international sportsmen face to face and see their incredible skills on the field,” says New Plymouth District Council Mayor Andrew Judd.
“Also, I’ve seen these young sportsmen get a lot out of their experiences here. From interacting with tangata whenua on marae to walking into a school hall to hundreds of children chanting the name of their country, we’re leaving them with great memories of New Zealand.”
Brazil will return to New Plymouth for the knockout match against Uruguay on Thursday 11 June.