When New Zealand Football president Phil Barry gets the chance to chat with Fifa president Gianni Infantino this weekend, one topic in particular will be front of mind.
Infantino is set to make a flying visit to Auckland on Saturday to attend the Oceania Football Confederation’s extraordinary congress.
While he’s in town, Barry plans to seize the opportunity to make the case for New Zealand – and thus Oceania – as hosts of the Women’s World Cup in 2023.
“I definitely will have a chance to speak with him and I will be highlighting the importance of the women’s game, both in New Zealand and Oceania, and promoting New Zealand’s interest in hosting the 2023 World Cup.”
NZ Football’s interim chief executive Andrew Pragnell confirmed last month that the organisation would be submitting an expression of interest by Fifa’s March 15 deadline, with the release of bid specifications from the global governing body three days later a key milestone.
Only then will NZ Football know whether it will be able to put together a bid that is up to scratch. The next edition of the Women’s World Cup is set to be held in France in June, and with it continuing to grow in size and stature, 2023 could be the last chance for New Zealand – and thus Oceania – to throw its hat in the ring.
Australia, Japan, and South Africa have confirmed their interest, with Colombia, Thailand, and South Korea – potentially in partnership with North Korea – others to have raised the possibility of bidding.
Infantino is coming towards the end of his first term as Fifa president and will be re-elected for a second term at Fifa’s annual congress, to be held in Paris in June during the Women’s World Cup, with no-one standing to challenge him for the presidency.
He had already received the support of the 11 presidents of Oceania, including Barry, who endorsed him at a meeting in November.
“He has taken some very impressive and much-needed steps to reform Fifa, and he has delivered on what he promised to do,” Barry said this week. “Expanding the number of countries qualifying for the World Cup, increasing the distributions to the member countries, and generally just putting in place much more robust governance and management processes.”
The main event at the OFC congress will be the election of a new president to replace Papua New Guinea’s David Chung, who was last week banned from football for six years for financial wrongdoing linked to a $20 million building project in Auckland.