HOLLYWOOD star Nicole Kidman has lent her support to Australia’s bid for the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cups.
Kidman narrated a promotional film being used by Football Federation Australia as it showcases the nation’s credentials in Cape Town a year out from the decision on host countries for the two sporting extravaganzas.
Australia is detailing its offer to host a “no worries” World Cup in front of FIFA heavyweights as it goes head to head with nine rivals for the 2018 or 2022 tournaments.
One of the FFA’s major selling points is Australia’s ability to put on on a World Cup that will be “fun, relaxed, safe and secure”.
“One of the unique aspects of Australia’s bid is the fact that we offer those four factors in tandem,” said FFA chairman Frank Lowy.
“We are a bridge between Asia and Oceania.
“We have significant experience in hosting major events.
“We have world class infrastructure and the capacity to improve it further; we are an attractive tourist destination; and Australians are multicultural friendly and welcoming.
“It would be everyone’s favourite away game.”
Kidman’s Aussie pride and glory
IT WAS a script straight from a Hollywood romance – the beautiful leading lady wooed through an appeal to the heart.
The story of how Nicole Kidman was persuaded to front Australia’s bid to host a soccer World Cup can’t have a fairytale ending for at least a year, when the hosts of the tournaments in 2018 and 2022 are revealed.
But The Daily Telegraph can reveal that Kidman demanded absolutely nothing for presenting the bid film that will be screened incessantly around the world wherever sporting and political leaders gather.
Played out for the judges of FIFA rather than the Academy Awards, it was a part that insiders say she researched like a film role, where she was her own costume manager and took directions via webcam but took as her payment only national pride.
She will also make a dramatic pitch at the plot’s tension-filled ending, flying to Zurich in a year’s time to front the 24 members of FIFA’s executive committee in the last moments before they cast their votes.
It will mark the final stages in a narrative that goes back more than a year, when a bid for the World Cup was just a gleam in the eye of Frank Lowy and his soccer advisers.
Acutely aware that England was the favourite, and had the pulling power of David Beckham to call on, Football Federation advisers discreetly polled the cache of various high-profile Australians.
They had to be figures who reached far beyond just the obvious markets of the UK and America, carrying kudos across Africa and Asia, with the FIFA executive comprising a true reflection of the globe. It was Kidman’s name which kept coming up.
Discreet inquiries to her management in the US struck an immediate chord – Kidman’s manager is an Australian, and the question was posed quickly to the star herself. The answer came back fast – yes.
With children who play soccer in Nashville, where she has set up home with husband Keith Urban, Kidman already knew the game as a soccer mum. But she reminded the FIFA that she had undertaken a similar spruiking role for the bid to bring the Olympics to Sydney and had felt the same pride as every other Australian when the Harbour City was chosen.
The major problem was logistical – her film commitments and family life meant initial plans to have her filmed in front of a host of Australian icons had to be adapted. Instead it was decided that she would stay in Nashville to film her role in a very different take on Australia: The Movie.
An Australian crew was dispatched there to film it and she spent days beforehand with the script, the aims of the film and the storyboard. The film showcases not only the landscapes of Australia but also the sporting, cultural and social environments.
FFA chiefs were agonising over what she should wear – to be glamorous but meet the sensibilities of men on the FIFA committee from various religions and cultures. It was Kidman who finally produced her own wardrobe.
And as she began the first of several takes, FFA’s corporate affairs chief Bonita Mersiades sat in her living room in Sydney, watching via Skype and a webcam to offer guidance.
The film was launched this week in Cape Town, to an audience including some of the most powerful figures in the game assembled by the Australian High Commissioner to have cocktails and hear stories of Australia’s readiness to host the event.
There are still hopes that Kidman may be able to attend the World Cup next June in South Africa but for now it is her on-screen persona that is the selling point. Whether there will be a Hollywood ending for Australia will be known in a year’s time.