Hosting FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 may change the face of football in India
India won the hosting rights for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 beating off competition from Uzbekistan, South Africa and Azerbaijan.
This will be the first time India will host an international football competition at a worldwide level. Never before has India – known as a ‘cricket-crazy’ nation – hosted an international football tournament at the highest level. In addition to host nation India, 23 nations will qualify from six separate continental competitions.
The football fraternity in India is describing it as a ‘historic development’ which may change the face of the game in the country.
Dr Shaji Prabhakaran, FIFA’s development officer for central and south Asia under whose jurisdiction both India and Uzbekistan fall under, believes that India can now embark on the road to progress with a goal in mind.
“It is a good move and is a historic day for India. For me, it is the biggest ever India will ever host in terms of world football. It is one of the great achievements. The best thing is that India can now focus on this with a concrete development plan with a goal. It will galvanize all stakeholders for a very concentrated football development. I’m sure that India will put up a very good show,” Prabhakaran has been quoted saying in the media.
“Hosting of FIFA U17 World Cup 2017 gives a great focus to India in shaping most of its development programmes towards it and this development event also gives a clear cut goal in front of Indian football. Further this global FIFA event gives a great opportunity to all the stakeholders to come together and work with a common goal and this way Indian football will be able to establish very robust development pathways in every element of football in India. I am very confident that U17 World Cup will be hugely successful in many ways,” Prabhakaran said.
‘Need to upgrade stadia’
A FIFA team, which included Prabhakaran, visited the country in February-March this year to inspect the stadiums. The team led by Inaki Alvarez, FIFA’s Deputy Director and Head of Event Management Competitions Division, said there was an urgent need to refurbish stadia around the country in preparation for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017.
The FIFA team visited the venues in eight cities shortlisted by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). These are: Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi; Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata; DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai; Balewadi Stadium in Pune; Karnataka State Football Association Stadium in Bangalore; Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at Margao; besides stadiums in Kochi and Guwahati.
FIFA will eventually have to choose six host cities from a shortlist of eight. The FIFA made it quite evident with their reactions that India has the potential to host a ‘tremendous World Cup’.
“What we have seen so far is very encouraging. I know three-and-half years is a long time (reference to the start of the tournament) but still there needs to be urgency in bringing the stadia up to the FIFA regulation,” Alvarez was quoted as saying in media reports. “It is good to see that there is commitment and passion for football. The atmosphere is good in India and I hope this tournament leaves a legacy for Indian footballers,” he said.
With the recent change in the central government in India, the new Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal met officials from AIFF on May 28 and assured them of full support in making the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 a grand success.