Women’s World Cup 2023: Queerest football tournament in history delivers dazzling opening ceremony

Women's World Cup 2023 opening ceremony

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup began with a joyful opening ceremony celebrating the indigenous cultures of co-hosts Australia and New Zealand.

The brief but powerful 10-minute ceremony on Thursday (20 July) saw the Maori people of New Zealand and the First Nations people of Australia greet visitors to the country with a stunning dance performance at Auckland’s Eden Park.

Members of the Tjarutja Dance Theatre Collective dazzled onlookers with an explosive performance in front of a handmade giant stingray, meant to represent the creature caught by the demi-god Maui and turned into New Zealand’s North Island.

Meanwhile, dancers performing a unity routine wore outfits inspired by the football shirts of the 32 countries competing this year, as a rainbow serpent snake representing Australia moved across the centre stage. Artists BENEE and Mallrat performed “Do It Again” – the official song of the Women’s World Cup 2023.

BENEE and Mallrat perform on stage during the opening ceremony of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 at Eden Park on 20 July 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Amid the spectacle was a brief moment’s silence to commemorate those who died in a multiple-victim shooting in Auckland just hours before the opening ceremony.

The tournament then got immediately underway, with a shock 1-0 win for New Zealand against Group A opponent Norway.

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Meanwhile, a record-breaking 75,784 people were in attendance in Sydney, Australia to witness the Group B opener between Ireland and Australia, with the host country coming out on top with a 1-0 lead.

The tournament has already broken a number of records in representation too, with this year’s Women’s World Cup boasting a record number of out LGBTQ+ players.

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Almost 12 per cent of the 736 players competing this year identify as lesbian, bisexual, queer, or non-binary. Those 88 players are more than double the number of LGBTQ+ athletes who took part in the last Women’s World Cup tournament in 2019.

Brazil is the team with the most openly LGBTQ+ players, with nine out of the country’s 23 athletes identifying as LGBTQ+.

The official logo of the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women’s World Cup is displayed during the opening ceremony at Eden Park in Auckland on 20 July 2023. (SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler commended the representation in an interview with NBC, but noted that the men’s tournaments were comparatively lacking in a single LGBTQ+ player.

“This is true across basketball, ice hockey and most every other sport. The WNBA [women’s netball] has over 25 per cent out women. That higher presence of out athletes naturally creates an environment where more women feel comfortable being out. As we say at Outsports, ‘courage is contagious’.”

England’s Lionesses have their own fair share of out LGBTQ+ players, including Rachel Daly, Jess Carter, Bethany England and Lauren Hemp.

Daly told the Daily Mail last year that she hoped the men’s game would “get there” in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance and representation.

“It’s a generational thing, some older people [have a problem with it]. But it’s more common now to accept it and be OK with it,” she said. “I think they’ll lose the stigma eventually.”

The Women’s World Cup 2023 takes place in Australia and New Zealand from Thursday 20 July to Sunday 20 August.

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