Pune: The official draw of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup is exactly a fortnight away and though the world body is yet to give its verdict on hosts’ request for venue change for India’s group matches from Navi Mumbai to New Delhi, one thing is assured that India will not draw either Brazil or the European powerhouse Spain.
“I cannot comment on what FIFA will decide on the request for the change of venue for India’s group matches, but one thing is sure that India will get drawn with the footballing powerhouse Brazil or Euro zone champions, Spain,” Joy Bhattacharjya, Project Director, Local Oorganising Committee (LOC), FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, told Sakal Times in an interview.
Consequently, the Indian football body, AIFF, is still in dark though the change looks almost unlikely as FIFA has seldom acceded to such requests in the past.
Union Sports Ministry wants all of India’s group stage matches to be staged at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi and not the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, as was originally planned.
The final decision on venue change will be done only after the end of the Confederations Cup in Russia.
The FIFA Under-17 World Cup will be held at six cities-Kochi, Goa, Navi Mumbai, Kolkata, New Delhi and Guwahati-from October 6 to October 28.
“What we are looking at is to create a culture of football in India. It is there to a certain level, but cricket still is way ahead, but by hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup we intend to change the perception towards football, wee bit,” said Bhattacharjya.
“The big part of the world cup will be that it will draw legends to India during the event. Though we are still days away from deciding which city will host which teams, but we are happy that all those who have qualified are good teams,” he added.
With official draw of FIFA U-17 World Cup being the next big event on agenda, once that gets over the LOC intends to take trophy exposure drive.
“We have plans to take the FIFA Under-17 World Cup trophy to major cities in India,” said Bhattacharjya, who is working alongside Javier Ceppi, the key FIFA man who is overseeing India’s readiness for the event.
Asked how football would garner more space than what it takes now given that cricket still remains runaway favourite with youth and old alike, Bhattacharjya said it cannot happen in a jiffy.
“European teams and the Latin American teams have 30-40 years of great heritage. India will take time to reach there,” said Bhattacharjya, who reminded that since India began working on this project their senior team itself has improved their ranking from 160 then to 100 now.
Then again, with India hosting its first event FIFA World Cup, has sought to conduct an Opening Ceremony ahead of the first match, but here to FIFA has not yet given a clearance.
“FIFA traditionally does not conduct any ceremony. But lets see what happens as the tournament comes closer,” said Bhattacharjya.