Infrastructure ready for FIFA U-17 World Cup: LOC boss

NEW DELHI, 17th FEB: The U-17 FIFA World Cup in India will not see any last-minute scramble for infrastructure completion, as had happened in the lead-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, with the Local Organising Committee chief asserting that the six venues will be ready well in time.

            The U-17 World Cup, the sport's third most important tournament globally and the most high-profile football event the country is hosting, will he held across six cities -- New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Margao, Kochi and Navi Mumbai -- from October 6 to 28. The prestigious tournament is widely considered to trigger a football 'revolution' in the country, with officials describing it as 'game changer'.

             Twenty-four teams, including hosts India, will take part in the tournament which will have 52 matches and played before an expected global audience of over 200 million in 200 countries. Javier Ceppi, the LOC's tournament director, said that renovation and other major civil work at the six stadia as well the four training grounds each in all the cities will be "almost" ready by the end of April. Only some "ancillary" works will remain after that and can be completed nearer to the tournament. He said all the stadia and training grounds will be world class.

                 "The FIFA U-17 World Cup is a little over seven months from now but I can say that we have a lot of things in place. The renovation work and all other major civil works at all the six venues will be complete or nearly complete by April end. So, at this point in time, there is no major red-flagging issue related to infrastructure and this is not a very common thing in India," Ceppi told PTI in an interview.

            "Other major renovation works relating to sewage, electrical fitting, media areas, dressing rooms etc., there will be readiness during next inspection by FIFA team in March end. Work is almost completed in those areas," Ceppi added.

              Ceppi, who was appointed to the job in November 2014, said that initially the progress of renovation work was tardy but picked up steam once it started. India got the right to host the prestigious event in December 2013 and the first visit by FIFA inspection team was in December 2014. The last two inspection visits were in February and October last year when the six venues were finalised.

                "It has been a long process in the last two and half years. In India, it takes time to start things but once things start it kind of picks its own pace and in terms of implementation I always say that India is a very good country when it comes to implementation. "Some venues are more advanced in their preparations. Goa hosted AFC U-16 Championships last year and it's almost 100 per cent ready. In venues like Delhi, work is picking pace. We are extremely confident by next FIFA inspection in March end, we will be able to show that the facilities are almost 100 per cent complete. There will be some things left to be completed, not major but ancillary work which take a little bit more time like painting of the stadia in Kolkata and Kochi.

               “India is different from many other countries. It’s first time that U-17 World Cup will have six venues with six different languages and different cultures. Dealing with government officials always have certain complications. The complication here is that you have to deal with many more governments. “Everything you do, you have to do six times, with six different state governments. But the road has been good so far, the best is that the stakeholders, particularly the state governments, have understood their responsibility.”

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