KOLKATA: Kolkata will host the summit clash of the U-17 World Cup football on October 28 while Navi Mumbai and Guwahati were chosen to stage the semi-finals of the prestigious FIFA tournament the country is hosting for the first time.
The 85,000 capacity Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan, which was refurbished by spending crores of rupees for the October 6-28 tournament, will also host the third place play-off match, one match each of round of 16 and quarter-finals, besides six Group F matches.
The announcement of the tournament schedule came after a seven-day visit by an eight-member FIFA team led by its head of events Jaime Yarza. The FIFA officials, along with Local Organising Committee members, inspected all the six cities – Kolkata, New Delhi, Guwahati, Margao, Kochi and Navi Mumbai – which will host the tournament. Kolkata was the last port of call for the FIFA team.
The two semi-finals will be held in Navi Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium and Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium in Guwahati.
DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai, which has been termed as the benchmark venue by the visiting FIFA team, will also be home to Group A and host a round of 16 match. Guwahati will be home to Group E besides hosting one round of 16 and one quarter-final match.
New Delhi will stage Group B matches, besides two round of 16 games. The Capital City will host its last match on October 16 due to the pollution concerns which has robbed it from hosting marquee matches.
Margao will be home to Group C, besides hosting two matches of round of 16 and one quarter-final game while Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which has been rated worst by the FIFA team in terms of preparations, will be the venue for Group D matches, besides one round of 16 and one quarter-final match.
“We know October is a month of festival in India and we want this to be a festival of football,” Yarza told a news conference after capping a countrywide recce of six venues.
Asked how Kolkata pipped Mumbai for the final, he said: “We love DY Patil. After what we saw here today we are confident that Salt Lake Stadium has stood up the benchmark. This is one of the stadiums that has improved greatly. All members of my team are very pleased. It’s really becoming one of the best stadiums in India, if not the top.
“We are happy. This is a stadium that is fulfilling all the high standards. Obviously it is not finished. Things can change but we have received guarantees from the ministers that everything will develop like we requested. Then we can have a fantastic World Cup here.”
Talking about Guwahati, the other semifinal venue, Yarza said, “The Guwahati government has give us unconditional support so that’s why there is a semi final there. They have a passion for football as sixty percent of the U17 team are from the North East.”
Asked about the criteria for selection of venues for the marquee matches, Yarza said, “A lot of names were considered. Many things were taken into account. Of course the city’s legacy was one of them. But that is less relevant.
“The most important thing is the infrastructure. We want to make sure they have a top level stadium in place where the clubs can play, the regional federation can play. The main aim is ‘Mission 11-million,” he added.
He termed this event to be one of the most challenging World Cups as there were a lot of issues initially, especially logistical.
“Well it is true it is one of the most challenging world Cups we have ever done. This is why the satisfaction for this will be higher when this is over. From the beginning there was the need to touch the soul of the young people of India with additional activities and we just did not take it as a World Cup. There has been a lot of logistical challenges.
“These are one of the most tiring inspection visits we have ever done. We believe there is a revolution happening here. This is not just a World Cup, this is the development of football for almost 500 million kids in India. We really hope that when the final is played, no matter who wins football will be the winner.”
Yarza further gave a detailed update on the FIFA team’s visit to the rest of the five cities and said Kochi has the biggest concern and it’s been given a May 15 deadline.
“They need to buck up to comply with the requirements. Also a big problem with the stores surrounding the stadium. We are still believing in Kochi and the authorities to make it happen. We have given them till May 15 to finalise the preparation.
“The situation is not as bad as it was a year before. But we are concerned. The renovation needs to take a completely different rhythm. There might be a Plan B applied in the future but right now we are counting with Kochi as one of the venues of the World Cup.”
According to Yarza, New Delhi has two main concerns – pollution and Diwali festivities.
“This (pollution and Diwali festivities) has been taken into account. We are hoping that Delhi will respond to the World Cup and families and kids will come to watch matches. The stadium in Delhi has improved. We are happy things are changing. At the same time the pace needs to improve. The stadium needs to look as it looked when it was built. Need to increase the rhythm and keep on working. We are assured we can do it with support of the state.”
Yarza spoke highly of D Y Patil in Navi Mumbai and the stadium in Guwahati, which will host semifinal matches.
“It was a very good stadium. I said that one year ago and it’s an even better stadium today. The requirements we have had they are being fulfilled. We have absolutely no concern,” he said on DY Patil Stadium.
On Guwahati, he said: “This is a very good stadium. From one year ago it has changed a lot. The support of the state government is magnificent. They are doing everything to have a fantastic World Cup stadium. It is also a legacy for the future. The state government has made arrangements to facilitate transportation for families.”
“Football Takes Over” will be the slogan for the biggest football extravaganza in India, project director Joy Bhattacharjya said.
“Our slogan is thoughtful. We have to leave something behind, it’s not just about the World Cup from October 6-28,” he said, elaborating on ‘Mission 11 Million’, a drive of Sports Ministry and All India Football Federation to take the game to 12,000 schools in 37 cities across the country.
“It’s not just about making them play but convincing them to take up football. We have already touched 1.5 million children and half a million are from Bhaichung Bhutia Academy. We need to make a movement. This is the best time ever for Indian football and it builds a solid foundation.”