19 Jun 2015

'Amazing' FIFA U-20 heads to finals

6:39 am on 19 June 2015

A sellout crowd of more than 25,000 will pack North Harbour stadium tomorrow for the finals of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

Fans at the Brazil versus Senegal semi-final in Christchurch.

Fans at the Brazil versus Senegal semi-final in Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Sharon Brettkelly

The $27 million tournament has been hailed a success despite the global corruption scandal threatening to overshadow it.

More than 300,000 people have attended 50 matches played by 24 teams from six continents.

The head of the local organising committee Dave Beeche said players and fans had not been put off by wintry conditions including floods in Dunedin.

"The stadiums have come to life with all that noise, colour and movement. The Columbians have come out in force and the Senegalese supporters are out there and the Uzbekistanis and the Serbs, so yeah we're really happy with that in the stadium and I guess also outside the stadium as well.

"The teams have been amazing," said Mr Beeche. "Many of them have done school visits and hospital visits and they've really engaged with the local community."

Brazil vs Senegal semi final in Christchurch

Photo: RNZ / Sharon Brettkelly

Former All White captain Steve Sumner said the tournament represented everything good about FIFA.

"Everything I've seen has been slick. There's been loads of people around, they've all been dressed in FIFA uniforms. As you're walking in the ground they made you feel welcome, they said hello.

"At times I said this is like walking into Disneyland."

As tournament started, FIFA was engulfed in controversy over claims of widespread corruption, following arrests of top officials in Zurich and a US investigation into the bidding process for major tournaments.

At a press conference in Auckland three weeks ago officials faced nothing but questions about the crisis. But the focus on the scandal has faded and this week FIFA president Sepp Blatter finally cancelled plans to attend the finals.

Former All White Sam Malcomson said he was right not to come.

"Its fabulous news. Nobody wants Sepp Blatter here now and specially not New Zealand when Andy Martin and the board took a unified stance and voted against him.

"So I don't think it's right that he should be here anyway because it's all about football and the bribe scandals and everything else should be kept where it is."

Brazil vs Senegal game in chch

Photo: RNZ / Sharon Brettkelly

Oceania Federation chief David Chung and Egyptian Hany Abo Rida are the top ranked FIFA officials in the country.

Mr Abo Rida was named new chairman of the New Zealand tournament after Cayman Islands official Jeffrey Webb was arrested over corruption allegations.

Mr Abo Rida has also been reportedly among the executive committee members linked to the investigation.

Sam Malcolmson, who has been involved in drug testing the players at the tournament, said attention should stay on the tournament, not the scandal.

"I don't think it's appropriate just now because I think it takes the shine off ... the tournament and ... the amount of work that New Zealand has done and also the players.

"The New Zealand support has been outstanding even when the weather's been a bit inclement. Football's been the winner and I think it should be allowed to remain that way."

Brazil fans will be out in force watching their team play for gold against Serbia tomorrow.

Mali and Senegal will playoff for third place in an earlier match.

Whoever wins, football fans said the event, watched by 170 million people around the world, has been a success for the game and New Zealand.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs