India will stage the Under-17 football World Cup from October 6 to 28 next year, the sport’s world governing body Fifa announced while ratifying Kolkata as the sixth venue for the mega event after an inspection in the city on Tuesday.
The draw for the tournament, to be held across six venues in India, will take place on July 7. Kochi, Mumbai, Guwahati, Delhi and Margao are the other five venues that have already been ratified following inspections by the Fifa delegation.
“We first came here two years ago to see the stadium. The work that has done has been staggering. I am confident that the stadium will look 30 years younger. I grew up here watched football here, it gives me immense pleasure to say Kolkata has been ratified as one of the venue for World Cup matches,” Joy Bhattacharya, Project director, Fifa U-17 World Cup, said.
“Massive amount of work has gone into the stadium, impressive improvements since our last inspection in February. Lot of work has been done hence the ratification. The stadium has the potential to be one of the best in the country and can also compete internationally,” Marion Mayer-Vorfelder, Competitions Department Lead for the Fifa Delegation, said.
State sports minister Aroop Biswas said 75 to 80% work has been done and the stadium will be complete by January 31.
When asked about the chances of Kolkata holding the final, tournament director, Javier Ceppi said, “This question keeps coming back and same thing I keep telling you. Before we can announce about final, we have to complete the work fully. We are extremely satisfied.
“Monsoon has been severe here so has been summer. We understand the weather constraint after January, we will have an assessment, then we will see whether a final or a key match can be played here,” he added.
When asked whether they are happy with the security arrangements, Ceppi said, “I have come to West Bengal 30 times. I have always felt very welcome and never felt threatened. We are working with the state government. We will try to deliver a friendly and a very good tournament.”
Ceppi later said ratification doesn’t mean a blank cheque as the progress of the work that is being done will be assessed periodically.