Enthusiasm rife in Fifa bid

By Mike Dinsdale

If enthusiasm was the only criteria Whangarei would be a shoe-in to host games in the 2015 Fifa Under 20 Football World Cup, a New Zealand Football official says.

Whangarei is one of nine cities bidding to be named to host games in the event, which is Fifa's biggest competition outside the men's Football World Cup.

A high-powered delegation from Fifa was in Whangarei on Wednesday evaluating the city's bid, including checking out Toll Stadium, training facilities, accommodation, infrastructure and other facilities.

The evaluation team has already visited the other eight cities bidding to become host cities - Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, and Wellington.

NZ Football's (NZF) Under 20 World Cup interim project manager Peter O'Hara said from his perspective, having been to all the other cities, Whangarei's bid was the most enthusiastic.

"The council and community has really got behind it. [Deputy Mayor] Phil Halse and the council have done a really great job of pushing for Whangarei," Mr O'Hara said.

"We've been planning this for two years and there's still another two-and-a-half to go before it's held. This is a really critical moment to have [Fifa] here, it's a key point in the process."

Fifa will announce the successful hosts in the next two months and Mr O'Hara said Whangarei had shown with its successful hosting of Rugby World Cup games in 2011 that it could handle major events.

He said NZF had received "very good feedback" from the Fifa team about all the bid cities.

"I'm from Mangawhai, and may be a bit biased, but I think Whangarei has put in a good bid. I was here [at Toll Stadium] for the Rugby World Cup and sat in those packed stands, so I know what can be put on here," Mr O"Hara said.

"Fifa will make the final decision, but I think Whangarei has got a good chance."

Two things that came out of the Fifa visit were Toll Stadium's lack of four changing rooms needed to host two games in one day and a dearth of top quality accommodation.

Mr Halse said both issues would be resolved if the city won the right to host games and the council was in discussions with developers about building a 100-plus room four star hotel on Dent St. Fifa needs 22 hotel rooms per team.

A successful bid could bring in $3.5 million and expose the city to thousands of foreign visitors.

- Northern Advocate

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