New Zealand’s first FIFA U-20 World Cup opponents, Ukraine, arrived in the country today to an official welcome and a rousing reception from the local Ukrainian community at Auckland International Airport.

Ukraine take on New Zealand in the tournament’s opening match at 1pm on Saturday 30 May.

Members of Auckland’s Ukrainian community clad in the nation’s traditional blue and yellow colours, sung the Ukrainian national anthem and presented the team with a traditional gift of sourdough bread and salt.

The team was also greeted by a performance from Tainui’s Haka Legend group and words of welcome from Auckland Council representatives as the host city.

In welcoming Ukraine to Auckland, ATEED’s Martin Fairweather says it’s fantastic to see the diversity of people coming from all over the world for this great tournament.

Ukrainian coach Oleksandr Petrakov and the players are respected for developing a strong team spirit and impressive team ethos which has underpinned their recent success

“Despite being a long way from home, the Ukrainian expat community is rallying it’s support, and we look forward to some spectacular football,” says Martin Fairweather.

Ukraine has made it to the last 16 in two previous appearances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Following the Opening match against New Zealand they will play United States and Myanmar in their attempt to reach the 2015 tournament’s knock out stages.

The Kiwi team will be officially welcomed to the tournament at Aotea Square on Tuesday 26 May and Aucklanders are encouraged to come along and get behind the team at the event which includes entertainment and a chance to meet the players.

Tickets are still available for all nine matches at North Harbour Stadium and fans are encouraged to show their support for New Zealand by dressing in white to create a whiteout effect at the stadium.

Fans and football fanatics wanting to get involved in the tournament can visit Fever Pitch on Queens Wharf free of charge during the tournament from May 30 to June 20.

Fever Pitch is a fan hub which will feature the internationally designed and purpose built FIFA cube, with digital displays, high tech skills stations, an information ‘locker room’ with information on the tournament and its history and football skills demonstrations. Fever Pitch also features an outdoor, small sided football pitch for club, community and business house competitions as well as impromptu matches.

For more information on the FIFA U-20 World Cup action in Auckland and Fever Pitch please visit aucklandnz.com/fifau20

This post is also available in: Ukrainian