Final countdown to France 2019 begins
- The countdown has begun – France 2019 kicks off in 100 days’ time
- The nine host cities celebrated and unveiled their tournament posters
The moment has almost arrived. Ever since the curtain fell on the previous tournament in Canada in 2015, the women’s football community has looked forward to one thing and one thing only: the kick-off of the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.
The good news for all concerned is that their patience will soon be rewarded. In fact, there are only 100 days left before France and Korea Republic lock horns at the Parc des Princes in Paris in the opening match of the competition.
After four years of hard work behind the scenes by FIFA and the Local Organising Committee (LOC), and on the pitch by the 24 qualified teams, the much-anticipated tournament is now just around the corner. Each of the has been putting the finishing touches to its preparations for welcoming the world in a few weeks’ time, and to mark the 100-day milestone, they all held events on Wednesday during which they unveiled their official tournament posters.
Ettie gets party going
The least that can be said is that the nine participating towns did not do things by halves, projecting huge images of goalmouths onto the facades of emblematic buildings in each city. And who was between the sticks? !
Always ready to take on a new challenge, the daughter of Footix, the mascot of France 1998, donned a pair of gloves for a giant virtual penalty shoot-out in which she faced spot kicks from local residents, media representatives, celebrities and politicians.
Despite Ettie’s popularity among the French public, the numerous spectators present opted to cheer on the penalty takers. And with good reason, because the objective was to reach 100 goals, symbolising the number of days that remain before the tournament’s opening match, upon which the cities’ France 2019 posters were then projected onto each building.
From Grenoble to Valenciennes, and not forgetting Le Havre, Lyon, Montpellier, Nice, Paris, Reims and Rennes, poor Ettie conceded no fewer than 900 goals to spot-kick takers. At the conclusion of the shoot-out, she nevertheless flashed a winning smile and celebrated the unveiling of each poster amid a party-like atmosphere.
“We’d really love to relive France 1998, UEFA EURO 2016 and what we experienced recently at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup,” explained Brigitte Henriques, Vice-President of both the French Football Federation and the LOC, who was in Paris on Wednesday. “We’re counting on you, the public. We’ve already sold 500,000 tickets. On 7 March, when individual tickets go on sale, set your smartphone alarms! It’s not just a Women’s World Cup, it’s a World Cup.”
Ice football, futsal, exhibitions and champions
While the main event in each city was the unveiling of the poster, fans in attendance were able to enjoy themselves and celebrate the start of the 100-day countdown in different ways throughout the day.
In , what better way was there to mark the moment in the heart of the French Alps than by organizing a football tournament on ice? In , aside from the tournaments in which a number of women’s team participated, a large “100 days to go” banner was unfurled in the stands of .
In , a mixed futsal competition was on the agenda. Elsewhere, in , not only was the official poster presented to the public, but the organisers also paid tribute to the numerous other poster proposals they received, going as far as to display them in an exhibition in the town hall.
Of course, the party would not have been complete without the appearance of several big names. At each venue, many sporting champions took part in the festivities and remarked how much they were looking forward to the start of the tournament. Patrick Vieira, who had the honour of competing in – and winning – a FIFA World Cup™ on home soil in 1998, attended the events in , while his former international team-mate, Vikash Dhorasoo, who was in the France squad that reached the 2006 World Cup Final, was present in .
FIFA Legend Marc Keller, also an ex-France international, made an appearance in Reims. Senegal’s Souleymane Camara and Brazil’s Vitorino Hilton, well-known faces in , accompanied internationals Clarisse Le Bihan and Sandie Toletti, while Laura Georges, member of the , and her former team-mates, Sonia Bompastor and Camille Abily, also took part in the celebrations.
“We’re 100 days away from the tournament, so it’s a big moment for everyone and for the competing teams, in particular. The Women’s World Cup is just around the corner!” said Marinette Pichon, legendary striker for Les Bleus, who was involved in the proceedings in Reims.
In each city, the day concluded with the same scenes of joy and pride once the posters were unveiled, but there was also a palpable sense of impatience, with fans desperately hoping that the 100 days go by as quickly as possible.