Between January and the end of March, the FIFA Women’s World Cup Winner’s Trophy is attempting to emulate Phileas Fogg, by travelling the world in eighty days, on the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 Live Your Goals Tour.
On Wednesday, the trophy arrived in Shenzhen, China, where four of the countries qualified for this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup were kick-starting their preparations. Following a press conference with delegates from the Chinese Football Association and Mayi Cruz Blanco, FIFA’s Senior Women’s Football Development Manager, children from local schools were called one-by-one to have their photos taken with the trophy, and some of the participating players.
Rebecca Quinn and Janine Beckie of Canada, Mariel Gutierrez and Estefania Fuentes of Mexico, Korea Republic’s Lim Seonjoo and Kim Hyeri, and China Head Coach Hao Wei, plus players Li Ying, Tang Jiali, Wang Fei all gave the children some memories to treasure.
Two days later, and the annual NSCAA Coaching Convention in Philadelphia, USA was the Tour’s destination. Some of the country’s top women’s football writers - in town for the NWSL College Draft – were up bright and early to quiz US Soccer Technical Director (and captain of the USA 1991 Women’s World Cup winning side) April Heinrichs, alongside Tatjana Haenni, FIFA’s Deputy Director, Head of Women’s Competitions, and Mayi Cruz Blanco.
Questions ranged from Football Turf to FIFA’s global women’s football development programme – 148 countries have currently requested FIFA’s support to develop sustainable grassroots infrastructure for girls – as well as refereeing standards, and the expansion to 24 teams at Canada 2015. But Heinrichs stole the show, admitting to having to choke back emotion at her memories from 1991, and how the FIFA Women’s World Cup will once again create stories around the world, turning unknown players into overnight heroes.
Later in the afternoon, Jim Gabarra, Head Coach of NWSL side Sky Blue FC joined the aforementioned trio, plus FIFA Executive Committee member, and President of the Turks & Caicos Islands FA, Sonia Bien Aime for a panel discussion. But of course, with a footfall of more than 10,000 delegates, the Trophy was unwilling to be kept in the shadows, and posed for countless photos in the Grand Hall of the Convention Centre, including with over 100 members of the Alliance of Women Coaches, and Head Coach of Chelsea Ladies FC, Emma Hayes.
Before the crowds could disperse, the trophy was packed away, and like a reformed rock star, it had an early night, before attending the DFB’s Women’s Indoor Football Tournament in Magdeburg today, with former New Zealand player Rebecca Smith, and FIFA's Manager of Women's Competitions, watching on. On the field, Bayer Leverkusen beat VFL Wolfsburg in the final. But off the field, once again the trophy was the star, as fans young and old flocked for a photo, and a permanent memento of its visit.
The trophy will next be in Sao Paulo, Brazil this coming Wednesday, with a couple of special guests set to appear. Naturally, we’ll bring you some of the best photos of the event. You can also follow the tour on Twitter FIFAWWC and on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/fifawomensworldcup