FIFA U-17 World Cup: Despite preparatory hiccups, Kochi geared up
Kochi will host its first FIFA U-17 World Cup match on Saturday when Brazil take on Spain at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 06, 2017 15:31 IST
A truck full of sand made its way to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday night as last minute preparations were being made ahead of the first Group D match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Saturday. On the pitch, a small group was at work, trying to put with precision the white markings at the center circle.
Preparations over the past few months have been far from ideal in Kochi, but things have finally seemed to have fallen into place after a late push.
“Everything is ready. All the preparations have been completed. All the coaches and teams are very much satisfied with the facilities,” KMI Mather, president of the Kerala Football Association, told Hindustan Times.
When asked about the ongoing preparations inside the stadium, Mather replied, “There is no problem at all. Even when you construct a building, you need to make some small changes at the last minute. There is nothing to worry about here.”
In March, Jaime Yarza, FIFA’s head of events, had expressed concerns about the pace of preparations in Kochi.
“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. They need to buck up to comply with the requirements,” he had said.
To make matters worse, the shops in the stadium complex hadn’t been shut down in time as requested by FIFA.
The Kerala High Court had to finally step in, asking at least 236 shopkeepers in the complex to bring their shutters down with the Greater Cochin Development Authority (GCDA) ordered to deposit a sum of Rs.25 lakh with government treasury as compensation to them.
However, despite all the hiccups, all the attention is now on the opening game at the venue. Heavyweights Brazil and Spain face off in a much-anticipated clash on Saturday evening, which will be followed by another Group D clash between North Korea and Niger.
Security concerns have forced the organisers to significantly reduce the capacity of the stadium from over 40,000 to 29,000. All tickets for the opening match day were sold out last week itself.
A large number of fans are expected to root for Brazil. The support enjoyed by the South Americans here was quite evident when the team practiced at the Veli Ground in Fort Kochi on Thursday evening. Around 200 locals cheered on as the Carlos Amadeu-coached side trained in full view of the fans.
Whether they make the best out of this support remains to be seen, but for Kochi, Saturday cannot come soon enough.