AUCKLAND: New Zealand’s Women’s World Cup players were forced down fire exits during a blaze at the team hotel, defender CJ Bott said today, but nobody was hurt and they are now focused on football.
A man was arrested and charged with burglary and arson after the incident at the hotel in central Auckland last night, local media said.
The team were not thought to have been the target but the fire came two days after a deadly shooting in the city on the morning of the opening match, which the co-hosts won 1-0 against Norway.
New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell said the players took shelter in a nearby restaurant before being given the all-clear to return to the hotel.
Leicester City’s Bott called it “not ideal” and “not a situation anyone wants to be in”.
“We went down the fire exits. One was a bit smoky but the majority of us got down the other exit,” the 28-year-old said.
“We spent the rest of the evening in another location until the hotel was clear and everything was safe to go back.
“As a team we have no cause for concern. Things are back to normal for us.”
The Football Ferns are now looking to Tuesday, when they face the Philippines knowing that another victory could secure their place in the last 16 even before their final Group A match against Switzerland.
Bott said that by beating Norway – New Zealand’s first World Cup win at the 16th attempt – they had “set a new standard” for themselves.
“I’d like to think we don’t have a ceiling,” said Bott, asked how far New Zealand could go.
“You should never set yourself limits. The Norway game has set a new standard for us and we don’t go down from there.”
After that opening result anything less than a win against debutants the Philippines would be considered a disappointment.
New Zealand is not traditionally a football nation but the team’s historic success, thanks to Hannah Wilkinson’s goal, has thrust them into the spotlight like never before.
The victory over Norway was watched at Eden Park by more than 42,000 fans, a national record crowd for football in the country, men’s or women’s.
“I think we still in a sense have the weight of the country on our shoulders,” added Bott.
“There is always a certain amount of pressure but it has given us the boost we need and we have taken a lot of confidence from it.”