India’s vast size and diversity posed as obstacles in the initial preparatory stage, but having crossed the hurdles, FIFA’s head of events Jaime Yarza has promised to deliver a “magnificent” U-17 football World Cup.
India is bracing up to host its biggest-ever football tournament, and the world’s third biggest, from October 6 to 28 in six cities.
“India is massive and has so many diverse regions that coordination with the various authorities can be challenging. In addition to this the distances to cover when we do inspections can be quite big. The infrastructure needed huge improvements but in general I am confident that it will be a magnificent FIFA World Cup,” said Yarza.
Better football education, stadia and training facilities could be some of the lasting legacies of India hosting the tournament, he said.
“In the years to come I really hope to see India’s footballers rise to the top in Asia and this would be the true legacy of the FIFA U17 World Cup,” he said.
“From an organisational point of view, we want to leave the right legacy in the football structures of the country – better sport managers, better stadia and better training sites. All of this should and will benefit football in India in the years to come.”
Yarza lauded the government support ahead of his final inspection of the six venues this week.
Yarza and his team will land in India on Tuesday for the inspection visit and will be in the country till March 27.
“The whole of India and its government are supporting the tournament, which really shows the strong and increasing level of interest in football. I am convinced that the FIFA U-17 World Cup, together with the project Mission XI Million, will leave a strong and lasting legacy in India and we will see an increasing interest in football and many more boys and girls playing the beautiful game.”
Post the U-17 tournament, Yarza hoped to see stronger Indian national and clubs teams in the future.
“If the AIFF maintains the level of activity we expect, supported by FIFA’s Forward Development Programme, we will see great achievements in the various national and club teams from India.
“Both Asia and the rest of the world can assume that there will be strong Indian teams in the future — India’s next qualification for a FIFA World Cup will happen sooner than initially expected. I am looking forward to this and of course to seeing the next generations of players in India.”
The players may not be well-known considering that it’s an age-group tournament, but the FIFA official assured that the country would get to witness some excellent football.
“The Local Organizing Committee (LOC), together with FIFA, has created a very ambitious communications plan to make sure that everyone in India is aware of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, and ticket prices are kept very low to make sure that everyone can afford to watch their favourite teams in the stadia.
“Of course while these young players are not very famous yet, in a few years’ time Indian football fans will be able to say that they watched the next Messis, Pogbas or Ronaldos on the pitch. We did see in Chile, at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2015, that families with young kids came to the stadia to watch the young players and the football skills their teams display is amazing. Sensational skills, excellent tactical knowledge, outstanding speed.”
Talking about the Local Organising Committee, he said: “FIFA cooperates with the LOC, which is doing an amazing job. We have a team of over 20 people at FIFA permanently liaising and collaborating with the LOC. Together, we will make sure that all logistical aspects are considered and perfectly prepared as for FIFA, this is a development tournament, so we are investing in the future of football.”
He said stadiums hosting the matches would be comparable to the best in the world once work on them are completed.
“They will once the refurbishments are completed. We can only congratulate the government for its efforts in improving the standards. We need to make sure that these investments benefit the whole football community, the future players and spectators.
“With proper planning football can only grow in India. The experience of the spectators at the stadia is key for proper development, so we hope that all efforts put into infrastructure will show the way to better football in the country,” said Yarza.
The draw of the tournament will be held on July 7.