Auckland was one of the host cities for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™, which was the first edition of the tournament to be co-hosted by two countries: Australia and New Zealand. The city buzzed with excitement and anticipation as it welcomed fans from all over the world to celebrate the beautiful game and support their favourite teams.

Hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup football has been a great honour and a huge success for Auckland and New Zealand. The tournament brought many benefits and opportunities for the city and the country, such as boosting the economy (by attracting tourists, sponsors, and media, and generating an estimated $200 million dollars in revenue), promoting women’s football and sport in general, and inspiring young girls and boys to pursue their dreams and passions, showcasing the culture, diversity, and hospitality of New Zealand, and creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the players, fans, and officials.

For The Y team it was more than just a wonderful opportunity to showcase our beautiful country and our love for the beautiful game. For The Y Ellerslie team, as training hosts for Argentina, and for volunteers like Morgan from Camp Adair, it has been a more intimate insight into the players and the event than ever experienced.

What do you get when you mix passion, smiles, and helping hands? The answer is the amazing volunteers of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™! These dedicated people gave their time and energy to make the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ a spectacular event for everyone. They were part of a historic moment in football, as this was the first FIFA Women’s World Cup to be co-hosted by two Confederations (Asia and Oceania), and the first one to take place in the Southern Hemisphere.

The volunteers were the heart and soul of the tournament, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the players, fans, and media. They were also the eyes and ears of the world, sharing their stories and experiences on social media. Without them, the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ would not have been such a success. Keen Aucklanders made up approximately 700 volunteers for the events. Half of these volunteers were based at Eden Park and the other half were based at remote sites.

One of these amazing volunteers was our very own Morgan Cooke from Camp Adair. Morgan shared her reasons for volunteering: “I have always loved football, and this was a moment in history that will never be forgotten and is unlikely to be hosted by NZ in my lifetime. I would have regretted it if I wasn't involved. I also wanted to highlight to our kids the importance of volunteering for things you enjoy and the importance of supporting a women's sports tournament.”

How did it all happen? Morgan says “We had to apply, select what volunteer role we wanted and participate in a zoom interview process. Once we accepted the role, we had a virtual face to face training session to complete and then we picked up our uniforms before the event.”

Volunteers got to meet each other and the staff, who were all very friendly and welcoming, and everyone quickly bonded over a shared passion for football and excitement for the event. The training session covered everything from the tournament schedule and venues to the volunteer code of conduct and safety procedures. Volunteers learned about the different cultures and languages of the participating teams and how to communicate with them effectively.

Morgan described her specific role as a volunteer: “as a sustainability volunteer, we needed to look for any safeguarding incidents that need to be dealt with, encourage patrons to use the correct, recycling/rubbish bins and my main role was assisting people with accessibility needs. I would have a wheelchair and was based at Gate D at Eden Park. I would assist anyone who was on crutches or had accessibility needs and take them to their seats. We would often collect them at the end of the match as well.”

As a not for profit, The Y is generously supported by volunteers. Volunteers are the backbone of society, and community and their contributions help achieve so much. For Morgan, volunteering is a meaningful task. “I find volunteering to be a rewarding experience. I often try to volunteer with different organisations. This was my first time volunteering for a sports event, and I loved it! I'm literally searching for the next sporting event opportunity to volunteer.”

A huge supporter of Espana (Spain) since the men’s team beat Netherlands (Morgan’s brother's team) a few years ago, Morgan was “pretty stoked they won the final.” Backing Spain, Aotearoa, and England (“because it's in the genes”), Morgan loved every minute of the world cup. “I also loved watching Japan play - they had the most beautiful way of playing football. It was a delight to watch them in action. I love football. Our family have always played football and I have watched FIFA world cup tournaments for years.”

Volunteering is always rewarding, not only for the comradery, the people you meet and the experiences you get to have, but also for the lessons and things you take away. Morgan’s lessons and hot takes? “Women’s international football matches are more enjoyable to watch than men’s. There are far less 'Hollywood' falling, feigning injury moments for one thing. Also, representation is so important. I am certain our girls’ football teams will expand following the FIFA Women’s World Cup in NZ and Australia. Being a volunteer for the tournament helped me see the importance of doing something you love purely for the love of it. The rewards are immense. I see it as an important part of self-care, and I feel many people don't do it enough. Our team was amazing - we had so much fun while providing an important service for many tournament patrons. I also learnt that clear communication with your team is vital.”

Anyone who attended any of the games would have felt the undeniable energy and excitement. For Morgan a highlight was just that, “being able to watch so many live football games and being able to be a small part of history made in Aotearoa and Australia. The promotion of women's sport has reached amazing heights due to this tournament. To live in a rugby mad nation and witness 30,000 plus people attending Eden Park matches to watch a women's football world cup tournament has been incredible. These athletes are amazing representatives for young girls and young women who are passionate about football. This tournament has shone a light on the viability of football as a career option for girls too.”

If you’re keen to try out volunteering at an event Morgan offers some advice, “just try it out. Our time is the most important asset we have as human beings. Being able to spend your time with likeminded individuals and doing something for the community can only ever be a rewarding experience. Plus, you will probably learn something amazing about yourself in the process.”

Over at The Y Ellerslie, preparations for The World Cup started early. In order to be considered as one of the few chosen sites for hosting international teams, much excited action was underway. Renovations, clean-ups, and operational plans were delivered to gain council approval. With an amazing facelift for The Y Ellerslie and Michaels Ave Reserve football field upgrades, the Argentinian contingent was enthused to choose Ellerslie as their training base. Belinda, manager at Y Ellerslie, remembers the “hectic build up” but says the council “acted and approved everything quickly” streamlining the process, and resulting in a beautifully modernised centre.

With Argentina aiming for their first win at a global tournament, a prime training base was vital. Daniela Lichinizer, a sports reporter for TN Deportivo in Argentina, told BBC Sport - "To win a first Women's World Cup match, that would be the best. That would make the fans excited about the tournament and would tell them the women's team is also our national team and they represent us the same as the men do."

The team arrived with this energy and spirit – their first visit to the Y Ellerslie accompanied by rhythmic and energetic Argentinean music pumping on a boom box to motivate their intense training sessions. Super personable, they didn’t request exclusivity, and preferred to interact with other Y members, happily taking pictures and signing items.

Over the tournament the Argentina team were a constant presence, training in the centre and at the pitch. Using the gym equipment for cardio, running HITT class style trainings in the fitness class space, and utilising the stadium for sprint training and drills, the women were demonstrably committed as all elite athletes are.

The gym and the park were extremely busy with media, primarily foreign media, all keen to track the journey of this promising team, especially as Argentina is the home of the men’s FIFA World Cup champions. This year’s World Cup has attracted record crowds and television audiences for women’s football. Broadcast audiences globally are expected to top two billion. It’s exciting to think about so many eyes across the world seeing our centre, our home, and our country on display.

Not only was The Y Ellerslie viewed from around the world, but it was also busy as ever with a lot of people coming through the door. Belinda reckons “this has put Ellerslie on the map”. The 22 players, and their wide coaching and support team were a wonderful addition to the centre. They were willing and happy to engage with members and were particularly generous with their time to their littlest fans at the Ellerslie Early childhood care centre. The kids made posters for the team that were displayed everywhere alongside the epic decorations the Y team had put up, and the Argentinean team were profoundly grateful. They visited and interacted with the young fans and made a point to acknowledge their appreciation. Their coach, Germán Portanova, was lovely, and even donated tickets to the games for staff to use.

Argentina came to Australia and New Zealand with a bold dream: to make history by reaching the knockout stage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ for the first time. Led by a visionary coach and a squad of hungry warriors, they were determined to defy the odds and break the curse of their previous three World Cup appearances, where they failed to win a single game. Driving Las Guerreras on their Australia & New Zealand 2023 quest was the desire to write a new page in their country’s football history.

But their journey was not easy. They faced three tough rivals in the group phase, each with their own strengths and ambitions. Argentina fought hard, showed courage, and gave their all on the pitch. Over 17,900 spectators packed Waikato Stadium (which holds just 18,009) for their last pool game. The crowd was full of Argentina supporters who sang and chanted for all 90 minutes, plus stoppage time, on a brisk night in Hamilton. But in the end, it was not enough. A 2-0 loss to Sweden sealed their fate and ended their hopes of advancing.

Argentina may have left the tournament early, but they did not leave empty-handed. They earned the respect and admiration of many fans, who witnessed their passion, talent, and spirit. They also gained valuable experience and lessons that will help them grow and improve in the future. Argentina may have fallen short of their goal, but they did not give up on their dream.

The Y and the Michaels Ave community have shown their love and support for football and the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ by hosting the Argentina women’s national team. We have created a lasting bond with the players and the fans, and have shared unforgettable moments of joy, learning, and inspiration. We have also demonstrated our commitment to empowering young people and families through sport and education.

The Y community are proud to be part of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ family, and to celebrate the power of football to unite the world. It was an honour and a privilege for everyone involved to be part of this historic event that celebrated women’s football and showcased the diversity and beauty of Australia and New Zealand.