Spain’s Jennifer Hermoso celebrates with teammates after scoring at the World Cup (Saeed KHAN)
Spain’s Women’s World Cup team has been invited for a free night-out in the sleepy New Zealand city of Palmerston North after claims they quit their base there early out of boredom.
The team denied that was the case and said they were moving to Wellington to prepare for their final group game against Japan on Monday and a potential last-16 match both in the New Zealand capital.
An earlier media report said the world’s sixth-ranked team had deserted the city because “the lack of things to do in the area has taken its toll” after two weeks in Palmerston North.
Spanish journalists following the team have made similar complaints about the city, which has a population of about 90,000 and an unfashionable reputation.
Palmerston North’s mayor Grant Smith was compelled to respond, telling news outlet Stuff: “I’d be quite happy to show the Spanish team a night-out in Palmy.”
Smith told The New Zealand Herald he appreciated that his city was no Barcelona or Madrid, before adding: “But we are comfortable in our own skin as a city.”
A spokeswoman for the team said they had enjoyed their stay in Palmerston North.
“We can’t speak highly enough of our stay there,” she told AFP.
“Moving to Wellington has nothing to do with being bored. We were treated very well and the players have had no complaints.”
It is the second time the Spanish have ruffled feathers in New Zealand.
They issued an apology before the tournament began after a video emerged of players making fun of the haka, a ceremonial dance considered sacred to indigenous Maori people.