England were greeted to a special welcome ceremony in front of approximately 3,000 fans to kick off their FIFA Women’s World Cup preparations in Australia.
The Lionesses who arrived in the country on Friday are based on the picturesque Sunshine Coast for their third phase of preparation for the tournament. The squad trained in warm winter weather at the impressive Sunshine Coast Stadium for the second time on Sunday, after a light training session and acclimatisation yesterday.
The fans took the opportunity to see the team put through their paces at a special community open training session. After the activity concluded, the players were officially greeted to the region with a welcome ceremony led by Her Excellency Vicki Treadell, British High Commissioner to Australia; Mark Jamieson, Sunshine Coast Mayor; Emma Thomas, Sunshine Coast Council CEO and members of the Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which it was held.
A focal point of the event was a traditional smoking ceremony led by the Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi people, an Aboriginal custom to welcome, wish good luck and ward off bad spirits. The Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi people were also invited by The FA to present the players with their official tournament squad number.
The community session concluded with players posing for photographs and signing autographs for fans.
Sarina Wiegman, England Head Coach said: “To see so many fans join us today was incredible. We have received such a warm welcome from everyone since we arrived, it really feels like a home away from home for us and we’re delighted to be here. With the brilliant facilities and the excellent climate we can’t think of anywhere better to get to work and finalise our preparation for the tournament.”
Vicki Treadell, British High Commissioner to Australia, addressed fans during her speech saying: “How fantastic it is to be here on the Sunshine Coast, the sun is smiling on the Lionesses, let’s hope the good weather and a good run comes to pass.
“This is such a terrific welcome and the relationship between our countries is really close and I think we can celebrate a fantastic tournament Australia and New Zealand are putting on.
“The wonderful hospitality the Mayor and his team have put on it will make for a terrific start.”
Mark Jamieson, Mayor of the Sunshine Coast said: “Our region is tremendously proud and excited that the Lionesses have chosen to come to our Sunshine Coast for such an important part of their 2023 FIFA World Cup journey.
“I’m very confident that our sporting facilities, our friendly hospitality, and our beautiful winter climate, will provide them with the perfect environment to put the finishing touches on their World Cup preparations.
“Today’s open training session is a rare and wonderful opportunity for our community.”
England continue their preparations on the Sunshine Coast next week, before taking on Canada in a behind-closed-doors match on Friday 14 July. The squad will then travel to Brisbane on Monday 17 July ahead of their first game in the tournament against Group D opponents Haiti on Saturday 22 July. They also face Denmark (28 July, Sydney) and China PR (1 August, Adelaide).