Teams are safe and the Women’s World Cup will continue as planned despite a fatal shooting in Auckland’s city centre on the opening morning of the tournament.
New Zealand’s Sport Minister Grant Robertson said discussions with officials from the sport’s governing body FIFA, including president Gianni Infantino, had confirmed the opening match would kick off as planned on Thursday evening.
Norway, who will face co-hosts New Zealand in the tournament opener at Auckland’s Eden Park, were swept up in the downtown incident.
The team’s hotel is in the same block as the crime scene, placing it in lockdown on Thursday morning.
Norway’s captain Maren Mjelde – a teammate of Matildas captain Sam Kerr at club side Chelsea – said “we felt safe the whole time”.
“Everyone probably woke up quite quickly when the helicopter hovered outside the hotel window and a large number of emergency vehicles arrived,” she told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
“At first we didn’t know what was going on, but eventually there were updates on TV and the local media.
“FIFA has a good security system at the hotel, and we have our own security officer in the squad.
“Everyone seems calm. We are preparing as normal for the game tonight.”
Three people, including the gunman, were killed in the shooting, a rare event in New Zealand.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said there were discussions over an appropriate marking of the incident at the opening match.
A gala Tourism NZ lunch planned for international visitors has been cancelled, with the venue – Shed 10 on the Auckland waterfront – inside the area cordoned off by police.
It is not yet clear whether the FIFA Fan Festival area, due to open later on Thursday, will be in operation. The site is also on the Auckland waterfront.
Tens of thousands of visitors are in New Zealand for the World Cup, and Hipkins assured them that they would be safe attending matches.
“Clearly, with the FIFA World Cup kicking off this evening there are a lot of eyes on Auckland,” he said.
“New Zealanders are welcoming people. We are excited about hosting the FIFA World Cup … there is no ongoing risk here.
“We will have very active police presence to provide that reassurance.”