FIFA has confirmed that the opening match of the Women’s World Cup in Auckland “will go ahead as planned” after a shooting in the city’s central business district on Thursday morning left three people dead.
Co-hosts New Zealand will play Norway at Eden Park tonight with kick-off scheduled for 08:00 BST.
New Zealand police said they have contained what they believe was an “isolated incident” and “not a national security risk.”
A FIFA statement revealed that the decision to go ahead with the match was made after consultation with New Zealand authorities and the participating teams, who confirmed that both players and staff are safe.
FIFA’s statement said: “FIFA expresses its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives following the incident that occurred this morning in Auckland/Tamaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand, and our thoughts and prayers remain with those who were injured in this tragic incident.
“Immediately after the incident, President Gianni Infantino and FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura contacted the Aotearoa New Zealand authorities. FIFA has also been in constant contact with the participating teams affected by this incident.
“FIFA has been informed that this was an isolated incident unrelated to football operations and tonight’s opening match at Eden Park will take place as planned.
“The opening hours of the FIFA Fan Festival in Auckland City Center/Tamaki Makaurau will be confirmed in due course. Participating teams in the vicinity of this incident are being supported in relation to any impact that may have taken place.”
New Zealand police shared via their official Twitter account on Thursday morning that, in addition to the three dead, including the person they believe to be the male offender, an officer and four members of the public were injured in the Incident that took place in a building under construction in the lower area of Queen Street.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins also addressed the match, telling a press conference: “Clearly with the FIFA World Cup kicking off tonight there are a lot of eyes on Auckland, the government has spoken with the FIFA organizers this morning and the tournament will proceed as planned.
“Aucklanders and those watching around the world can rest assured that the police have neutralized the threat and are not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident.
“The safety of New Zealanders and the safety of our visitors is our first priority.
“We have been in regular contact with FIFA, they are proceeding as planned, obviously there will be an increased police presence around Auckland to provide reassurance to the public, but the police have indicated that they do not believe there is a continued security risk.”
Both teams involved in tonight’s match have assured the public that their players and staff are safe.
The Norway team’s hotel is located some 300-400 meters from where the shooting took place, but a team spokesman told the PA news agency that all is quiet at the Norwegian team and preparations for the match are proceeding as normal.
Captain Maren Mjelde said in a statement: “Having been informed of the consequences, the thoughts of the Norwegian team are with those affected and their families.
“Everyone probably woke up pretty quickly when the helicopter flew over our hotel window and a large number of emergency vehicles arrived.
“At first we didn’t know what was going on, but eventually there were updates on TV and local media. We feel safe all the time. FIFA has a good security system in the hotel and we have our own security officer in the team.
“Everyone seems calm and we are preparing normally for tonight’s game, so we may have to adjust if there are any instructions from the authorities.”
New Zealand Football tweeted: “New Zealand Football is shocked by the incident in Auckland CBD this morning.
“We can confirm that all Football Ferns team and staff are safe, but we will not be able to comment further while details still emerge.
“Consult the New Zealand Police for more information. Preparations for tonight’s match at Eden Park will continue as planned.”
The United States women’s national team, which is also based in New Zealand, responded in a tweet posted on its official account, saying: “US Soccer extends its deepest condolences to the families of the victims who died in the shooting at the Auckland center today. .
“We are saddened by the unforgivable loss of life from gun violence and our thoughts are with the people of Auckland/Tamaki Makaurau and Aotearoa New Zealand.”
An earlier tweet from the US read: “Regarding the incident in downtown Auckland, all of our USWNT players and staff are accounted for and safe. Our security team is in communication with local authorities and we are proceeding with our daily schedule.”
The Philippine Women’s National Team also confirmed via social media that all members of their delegation were safe.
A statement from Eden Park read: “The Eden Park Trust extends its deepest condolences to the Whanau of the victims in the incident that took place in the Auckland CBD this morning. It’s a sad day for Auckland on what should be a day of celebration.
“Eden Park has been working with all relevant agencies regarding this morning’s incident and the impact on services and staff.”