Rolling out red carpet for FIFA

The playing pitch at Hamilton City Council-owned Waikato Stadium was set up for football recently, especially for a visit by a high-powered contingent from Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

The FIFA team was in Hamilton as part of a New Zealand tour to carry out stadium inspections ahead of the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup.

It's the first time the rugby stadium has been set up for football since July 2010, when the Wellington Phoenix played a pre-season fixture against the Brisbane Roar.

Prior to that, Waikato Stadium hosted matches as part of the 2008 FIFA U17 Women's World Cup.

Hamilton City Council's events and economic development general manager Sean Murray said the visit was part of the city's bid for matches in the tournament.

"We wanted to present our stadium to our guests as it would look for a football fixture. It was important that FIFA got a feel for how Waikato Stadium can be transformed into a world-class football venue," Mr Murray says.

The FIFA U20 World Cup and Hamilton logos were painted on to the turf to enhance the football mood.

"It's another great demonstration of how multi-purpose Waikato Stadium is. Although for most people it's synonymous with rugby - the Chiefs, the All Blacks, and Waikato - we can quickly convert it for other uses. Later this month it will be used for the Nitro Circus motorcycle stunt show, then a few days later it will be transformed for a Warriors pre-season rugby league fixture."

Mr Murray says Hamilton's bid for matches in the FIFA U20 World Cup is the result of a collaborative approach between council and the business and football communities.

The city has lodged a 'Category 3' bid, which if successful will see Waikato Stadium host up to eight matches, potentially including a quarterfinal.

While in Hamilton, the FIFA party also visited hotels and potential training grounds, including council-owned Beetham Park, Willoughby Park and Porritt Stadium.

- Hamilton News

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