Best of the rest: Dunedin hosts world u-17 football pool (1999)

The football world came to Carisbrook. And it was brilliant.

There was a healthy amount of scepticism about the world under-17 championship in 1999, and particularly whether the four New Zealand cities chosen as pool bases could attract enough interest to make it work.

Carisbrook was very much a rugby ground, and Dunedin was gripped by rugby fever following Otago's NPC win the previous year and the Highlanders' effort in hosting the 1999 Super 12 final.

Then, when Otago fans heard the football teams coming south included Qatar and, er, Burkina Faso, there were real fears the tournament would be a flop.

Pffft. The teams were entertaining, the crowds turned up, the House of Pain was in tip-top condition and the football was marvellous.

Dunedin hosted Pool D, which was won by the silky-skilled lads from Paraguay. Jamaica brought plenty of colour and a free-flowing style, the Qataris (most sporting moustaches) played with panache, and even Burkina Faso (it's in Africa - look it up) had its moments.

Carisbrook also hosted a fantastic quarterfinal, with glamour side Brazil thumping Paraguay 4-1.

To quote an Otago Daily Times sports reporter at the time (he was young, and excitable), the tournament was "a magical 10 days of soccer when Otago opened its eyes to a global sport it never knew could be so enjoyable".

Carisbrook hauled in 31,400 fans over four game days.

Brazil went on to win the tournament.

New Zealand is hosting the world under-20 championship in 2015, with Dunedin's new stadium set to be involved.


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