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Zambia and Philippines' football teams arrive in Auckland to excited fans

Zambia supporters
Zambia supporters at Auckland Airport. Photo: RNZ / Rayssa Almeida

Just 10 sleeps away from kick-off at the FIFA Women's World Cup, New Zealand's migrant communities are getting together to welcome their teams and cheer for their home countries.

This morning, the women from Zambia and the Philippines landed at Auckland Airport welcomed by dozens of supporters, with the arrivals area turning into one big party.

Between drums and chants, Auckland-based said Tina Bonsu-Maro took time off work to welcome her team.

"I think that's the first time ever we have FIFA coming to New Zealand, so we just can't wait to dance, can't wait to cheer, can't wait for the drums, it's going to be so much fun.

"We are going to win, we already won. Everyone pack up, Africa is here, game over."

Bonsu-Maro said football made her people smile.

"We like to dance, we love the music, we love the sport. Football brings our people together, it's is in our DNA."

Originally from Zimbabwe, Rosemary Bennett said she would be supporting all the African teams.

"Even if they don't win, they are already champions by coming here.

"I'm from Zimbabwe but I'll be supporting South Africa, Zambia, any country I'll support, as long as they are from Africa."

African Communities president Evelyn Park said the event was an important opportunity to bring communities together.

"It's not just the Zambians, there are people from here from other African communities, who came to support our brothers and sisters.

We are taking this as a continental approach, supporting all the girls that have qualified, Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, Zambia," Park said.

The team's arrival came just two days after The Guardian reported allegations of sexual misconduct against head coach Bruce Mwape.

The Football Association of Zambia told the newspaper that it had referred the allegations to FIFA.

Mwape was in Germany over the weekend for a warm-up game ahead of his team's trip down under, but RNZ did not see him at the airport today.

The rest of Zambia's squad were expected to arrive in the country tomorrow.

Zambia supporters welcome team for Football World Cup
Filipino fans waited at the airport for the Philippines team to arrive. Photo: RNZ / Rayssa Almeida

As the Zambia team headed to their bus surrounded by drums and flags, a new crowd started to gather at the FIFA fan base.

After more than 25 years of trying to reach the global finals, the Philippines would have its first chance to compete at a World Cup.

Rene Molina was part of the committee of Filipino fans.

He said no matter the results, the country was already proud of its team.

"If they win, that would be great. But being in the World Cup makes them already our champions."

Also part of the committee, Carlo said the community will make its presence felt at all of their games.

"Here in Auckland, we got groups buying tickets together, 10 tickets per group. In Wellington, our coordinators bought 40 tickets. At least there will be a sizeable number that people will be able to recognize from the field.

"And yeah, we will win, of course," Carlo said.

The Philippines will face Switzerland, New Zealand and 1995 champions Norway in Group A.

While the team might not be the favourite to hold the Cup, supporters were confident on the team's victory.

"I have a very good feeling that Philippines will do very well in this World Cup," Julieta Sheehan said, waving her flag at the arrival's terminal.

"I am very excited. I'm usually a rugby fanatic, but for the Philippines I'm football all the way," Rosemary Bennett said, while holding the flowers she wanted to gift the players.

"The wait for them to win is honestly killing me. Go the Philippines," she said.

FIFA and the Football Association of Zambia were contacted regarding the allegations against Zambia coach Bruce Mwape.