India is hosting the Fifa U-17 World Cup 2017, a historic event, from October 6 to 28.
The festival of happy feet is set to sweep the cricket-mad nation. There are 24 nations taking part in the tournament.
There is no doubt that by India conducting the tournament, football will get a major boost in the country. Obviously, the 1.2 billion plus population of the country deserve the sport of of all. Fifa’s self-interest in breaking into such a gigantic market can easily be pardoned, considering the benefits India’s young players will derive. India and China are two markets that they have been assiduously cultivating. Obviously no sport is going to grow unless it interests the majority of world population.
Indian Super League has been a major game changer for football in India. Imagine young players still struggling to get their dribble right getting a chance to see the objects of their adoration in action right in India! And for some exceptionally talented youngsters, it is the chance of a lifetime to play side by side with the best.
Beneath its color and pomp, ISL is doing a big service to the game of football in India by popularizing it against the cricket madness. There is the even bigger benefit of the youngsters getting a ringside view of the techniques and skills of the titans of the game. The young Indian players get the biggest chance they can hope for to share the dressing room and football pitch with big players and learn from them. They will learn that what makes a good player great is the ability to strategize on their feet the moves on the pitch – whether in aggression or defense.
The under-17 world cup has the effect of adding tinder to fire by giving fans and players an opportunity to watch promises of the future international scene on the pitch up close. It may be that these players are not yet as much known as the Neymars, but they are promising talents nevertheless. They are much younger than the players we look up to. And yet untamed. And no fear for reputations. These attributes promise games of extreme speed and ferocity with which most make up for a lack of experience. And they would deliver 101 percent, making the event one to cherish for a life time.
Fans give matches the atmosphere, pushing the athletes to extend the limits of their performance. Therefore, it was right for India’s sports managers to put down fan response as the key to choosing the venues. In terms of football fans there are no better places to choose in India than Kolkata, Guwahati, Kochi and Goa. ISL matches have shown the sky high enthusiasm of fans in these venues. Of course Delhi being the national capital and Mumbai being the commercial hub are automatic choices.
Kolkata is fittingly chosen to be the venue of the final. The huge stadium has a maximum capacity of about 85,000, but for security reasons the seating capacity has been reduced to around 66,000. Notably, all venues have suffered this reduction of seats on account of security. Kochi also got a good number of seats reduced to less than 42,000. An unseemly controversy regarding the lock-down notice to traders operating out of the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium at Kaloor has failed to mar the chances of Kochi as a venue. Following a court case, Kerala Football Association has been asked to deposit Rs2.5 million in order to compensate the traders for the loss of business. The court rightly felt unhappy that the authorities did not take the lock down matter seriously when the venue was decided two years back. The authorities should have shown the foresight and alerted the traders about the likely disruption of their business.
We can see that a small nation like Qatar has been awarded the 2022 Fifa World Cup. China has already earned their badges by successfully staging the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. India, of course, is another 20 years away from staging an Olympics.
Kochi Metro Rail Corporation must be appreciated for opening the stretch from Palarivattom to Maharaja’s College to public ahead of the world cup. It is of course an occasion to be marked with such additions to the city’s infrastructure.
Successful conduct of the Fifa U-17 World Cup 2017 will go a long way to enhance legitimacy of India’s claim to stage future Fifa tournaments. Already there is talk about India bidding for Fifa under-20 world cup 2019. There is no doubt that Indian fans deserve more such football feasts.
The other great benefit of successful conduct of such tournaments is the improvement of infrastructure. India deserves stadiums of world-class quality and that will come about only through willingness to excel. Nations that have less population than a mid-sized Indian city are already far ahead in terms of football infrastructure. We can see that a small nation like Qatar has been awarded the 2022 Fifa World Cup. China has already earned their badges by successfully staging the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. India, of course, is another 20 years away from staging an Olympics. Had the nation’s politicians been patriotic enough to organize a blemishless Commonwealth Games in 2010, it would have enhanced Indian claim for bigger tournaments. But the haphazard way in which it was organized has killed the world’s confidence in India’s ability to organize world-class events. We can only hope that the powers that be keep national interests on top of their mind and deliver a superb tournament.