|New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (second, left) with head coach Mai Đức Chung and players from the Vietnamese women's team. The national team will play its World Cup group games in New Zealand when the tournament starts in July next year. VNA/VNS Photo
HÀ NỘI — Despite her busy schedule, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday found time to meet with Việt Nam's women's football team ahead of their first FIFA World Cup appearance in 2023, which New Zealand will co-host.
"I was at the live draw in Auckland, and when I heard Việt Nam's name called and realised we would be hosting you in New Zealand, I was so pleased," said Ardern.
"Knowing that we would be sharing those firsts, Việt Nam's first World Cup and our first time hosting the finals – I knew it would be special. And, of course, even down in New Zealand, we have heard about the Việt Nam Golden Star Women Warriors.
"We have a word for women like your football team – we call them "Wāhine Toa". Literally, it means "strong women" but it means strong of body, mind and spirit, and I think it perfectly epitomises the Việt Nam team," she said.
Việt Nam will play all their Group E matches in New Zealand. They will be against the powerful US, world No. 1 and defending champions, and the Netherlands, a silver medallist and one of the winners from a playoff round.
"I know the team has drawn a tough group with the US and the Netherlands. My advice as someone who hasn't played world-class football, of course, is just to focus on playing your game. I have heard about how much joy the team plays with and how much passion, and I believe if you bring that to New Zealand, you can beat anyone," she said.
Ardern said hosting the World Cup was a big deal for New Zealand. The co-host wants to ensure that all teams have everything they need so that Australia and New Zealand can host the best World Cup event ever.
"At this stage, I think the main thing we want to do is reassure all the teams about the great hosting experience they will have.
"For teams coming to New Zealand, I know there will be a lot of questions about the venues and pre-tournament training facilities. I am absolutely sure that our hosting team are working hard to ensure that we can answer all of the questions your team management has.
"And then, of course, we're getting New Zealanders ready to be the best hosts Việt Nam has ever experienced."
Asked if the World Cup would inspire more women to get involved in sports and how sports can play a role in women's empowerment, Ardern said: "I absolutely think the World Cup will inspire young women and girls to give sports a go. Unfortunately, even in sports-mad New Zealand, women and girls still face inequalities when it comes to participation, and visibility within sport".
"Events like the World Cup help particularly with visibility and as hosts – that's something we really want to maximise."
Ardern presented head coach Mai Đức Chung and each player a scarf, an official product for World Cup, because they are going to compete in the cold weather city of Auckland.
Coach Chung, on behalf of the team, said he was proud to take charge Việt Nam team at the New Zealand World Cup.
He was very glad to see the organising activities and preparation of the hosts for the competition.
"The facilities for World Cup are incredible. I have nothing to complain about. It is our great honour to meet with PM Jacinda Ardern, who put aside time for us although she was busy," said Chung.
"She is friendly and charming like the New Zealanders I have ever met."
The national team will be chosen after the first leg of the National Women's Football Championship in February 2023.
According to the Việt Nam Football Federation, they will have several intensive training courses in Europe, where they will play with strong rivals to sharpen their skills ahead of the World Cup. VNS