The Women’s World Cup has opened with an elaborate greeting from the Maori people of New Zealand and the First Nations people of Australia.
In a moment intended by FIFA to stress the cultural roots of tournament co-hosts New Zealand and Australia, along with international unity, the roughly 10-minute ceremony on Thursday focused on groups of people meeting peacefully at the centre of Auckland’s Eden Park.
For New Zealand, volunteers held aloft an artistic representation of a giant stingray, which in traditional beliefs is said to have been caught by the demi-god Maui and turned into what has become the country’s North Island. A giant rainbow serpent, representing Australia, was likewise held up by the cast and joined the stingray.
The ceremony ended with the official match ball being presented to the United States, the 2019 and 2015 World Cup champions, and 2011 champion Japan, at midfield to represent the Maori koha, a gift to the other 30 competing teams.
The 32 countries were then introduced on the stadium’s video screens, while dancers performed a unity routine in costumes inspired by the 32 jerseys that each country will wear. BENEE and Mallrat performed the official song of the tournament, Do It Again, as the ceremony came to a close.
Just before kickoff, a moment of silence was observed for the victims of a deadly shooting that occurred earlier on Thursday in downtown Auckland. The shootings were unrelated to the tournament but happened near team hotels.
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