In a country where sporting atmosphere is largely dominated by cricket, a global football tournament is sure to promote the sport of football to reach newer heights. FIFA’s decision to award India the right to host the U-17 Football World Cup has been welcomed as a step in the right direction. In recent years, there has been a lot of effort to promote football in India and it has seen superstars like Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi come to the country. Such an event then is sure to push the horizons for Indian football far wider.
India bid for the tournament a second time this June, after its first bid made in January was rejected by FIFA’s executive committee due to lack of assurances. However, six months later, by narrowly beating out Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan as well as South Africa, India won the right to host the tournament. Republic of Ireland reportedly showed an interest but did not eventually bid. This will be the biggest football tournament to be played in India to date. In order to ensure that this tournament is hosted smoothly, a sum of around 100 crores is said to have been made available to the AIFF for the upgrade of stadiums in India.
The footballing event which takes place once every two years, is expected to boost the popularity of the rising sport of football in India. The decision to award India the hosting rights to the tournament have been widely welcomed by Indian footballers and pundits alike. Indian football captain Sunil Chettri was enthusiastic about the event and was hopeful about the sponsors investing into it well thereby promoting the sport. FIFA president Sepp Blatter is said to have taken a keen interest in India’s bid himself.
Indian footballing legend Baichung Bhatia also expressed his pleasure at the decision and said that the tournament will be a huge boost to football infrastructure in India. Also noting that this event had the potential to put India onto the world map, Baichung did insert in a reminder that it was important for India to hold the tournament successfully to boost the confidence of the people.
Being the hosts, India’s U-17 team will automatically qualify for the tournament. The 2017 event will be the 17th edition of the U-17 World Cup. 24 nations will compete in the tournament including the hosts India. The qualification will be through 6 different competitions in the respective continents. The final tournament will be conducted in six of the eight cities shortlisted: New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Margao, Kochi, Pune and Guwahati. Six of these will be selected by AIFF and be chosen as the venues for the tournament.
Indian football team, currently ranked 148 in FIFA rankings, has never really had an effect in football at the global level, and the stage is set for the Indian youngsters to have an impact that will reverberate around the footballing world, signalling the rise of a new face in world football.