An iconic New Zealand tourism product has been used to promote the FIFA U-20 World Cup during an epic game of football in FIFA host city Dunedin.
Although the game of Zorb football has many incarnations across the world (where it is also known as bubble-soccer, bubble-football, bumper ball and even has its own International Bubble Football Association) it is down to Kiwi-ingenuity that this extreme game of football - where participants are encased in a transparent plastic bouncy ball (Zorb) whilst trying to kick a football – was created.
Iconic Kiwi invention
Invented in 1994 by New Zealanders Andrew Akers and Dwane van der Sluis, Zorb began life as a giant inflatable ball that allowed people to hurl themselves down hills, enjoying a safe and thrilling-ride along the way.
The idea took off in New Zealand - and across the world - where millions of people have now enjoyed this unique New Zealand adventure.
But it was all about the football in Dunedin recently as students of the historic University of Otago formed two lines, preparing for battle in a scene that wouldn’t have been amiss in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
Although both teams charged with intent to score the first goal, none of the participants showcased the blazing skills of the U-20 players that will be gracing New Zealand’s shores during the FIFA U-20 World Cup, starting this May.
FIFA U-20 World Cup
Instead the students struggled to stay on their feet thanks to the giant plastic bubble encasing their upper body and head, not that it really mattered.
Throughout the game football was almost forgotten and replaced by plenty of laugher and fun.
The game was organised by Dunedin’s FIFA U-20 World Cup manager Mike McGarry as a way of promoting the tournament to the many students that make Dunedin their home during their time at the University of Otago – New Zealand’s oldest university.
The South Island city of Dunedin will play host to seven games - including a round of 16 clash - during the tournament which kicks off in Auckland on the 30th May. With teams like Mexico, Uruguay, Portugal, Serbia, Colombia and Mali all heading to Dunedin for the tournament there is sure to be plenty of thrilling action on display at Dunedin’s Otago Stadium.
Built for the 2011 Rugby World Cup the stadium, the only fully undercover stadium in New Zealand, is renowned for its electric atmosphere as it gets sports fans close to the action as it unfolds on the pitch.
Rich football history
With a history steeped in Scottish heritage - and a city that boast more firsts than any other in New Zealand – it is little wonder than Dunedin lays claim to one of New Zealand’s oldest football clubs. Established in 1888, the club now-known as Roslyn Wakari AFC was one of the founding clubs in Otago, celebrating its 125th Jubilee in 2013.
Dunedin’s Southern United Football Club (previously Otago United) also has a pretty impressive story to tell. It was once home to Lutz Pfannenstiel – a German goalkeeper who is the only player ever to play professionally in all six FIFA Confederations.
After representing Germany at youth level, Pfannenstiel played himself into football folklore by plying his trade professionally in Malaysia, England, Finland, Singapore, Indonesia, Belgium, South Africa, Norway, Italy, Canada and New Zealand.
With such rich footballing ties, there is no doubt Dunedin is ready to welcome the world to the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Not only will the city play host to some of the world’s hottest rising stars, this tournament is also a chance for visitors to experience the vibrant and forward-thinking city of Dunedin and all it has to offer.
One of New Zealand’s oldest and most important settler cities, Dunedin’s Scottish heritage shows in the architecture, restaurants and bars serving haggis and a wee tipple, and the skirl of the bagpipes at many events.
Sheltered in the arms of a long dormant volcanic cone, Dunedin fits snugly placed in the Otago Harbour. The surrounding beaches and inlets are numerous and spectacular while, just beyond the city limits, beautiful Otago Peninsula is a haven for significant wildlife populations and world-leading sustainability projects.
An endearing city of fine Edwardian and Victorian architecture, Dunedin is one of the world’s great small cities – a centre of learning, heritage, arts and culture. The commercial hub of the Otago region, Dunedin has a vibrant compact city centre with restaurants, cafes, hotels and accommodation within walking distance while the city rise has stunning views.
FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015:
From 30 May – 20 June, seven host cities throughout New Zealand will host some of the most talented rising stars of the world game when the FIFA U-20 World Cup is staged in New Zealand in 2015.
Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, New Plymouth and Wellington in the North Island will host games, while Christchurch and Dunedin will represent the sport-loving South Island. The schedule sees four pool games played in two of the seven host cities daily - with plenty of double-header football action to whet the sporting appetite.