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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

FIFA U-17 World Cup: England, Brazil happy to be back in Kolkata for semifinal

Shift of the Brazil vs England FIFA U-17 World Cup semifinal from Guwahati may help Indian organisers beat 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup as football’s most watched FIFA youth event ever

fifa-u17-world-cup-2017 Updated: Oct 24, 2017 23:28 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Brazil U-17 football team players during a training session on Tuesday, a day before their FIFA U-17 World Cup semifinal match against England at Salt Lake Stadium practice ground in Kolkata.
Brazil U-17 football team players during a training session on Tuesday, a day before their FIFA U-17 World Cup semifinal match against England at Salt Lake Stadium practice ground in Kolkata.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

There could be one positive outcome of the Brazil-England semi-final shifting --- this World Cup would be the most watched youth FIFA event ever. And that includes under-20 World Cups.

So far the record is with Colombia which hosted the 2011 under-20 World Cup and had a turnout of over 1.3 million. India breached the 1 million mark by the pre-quarter finals, according to a media release from FIFA which put the number at 1,007,396 on October 20. The target then was to break the record of 1,230, 976 set by China in the first teens’ World Cup, an under-16 event, in 1985.

Now, the estimated turnout of 50,000 or more on Wednesday ---- it would have been around 23,000 had the match been in Guwahati --- should help India get more people on seats than Colombia by Saturday’s final, said an official of the tournament’s local organising committee.

While relocating inside 48 hours was a logistical nightmare with tickets being printed through Tuesday, according to Joy Bhattacharjya, project director of the local organising committee, neither England nor Brazil seemed to mind.

Carlos Amadeu denied that Brazil had refused to play in Guwahati --- “it is not our business to influence FIFA, we were designated Guwahati and we wanted to play there,” he said --- but felt returning to Kolkata was good.

“We are happy to play here again as you received us in a really good way. The crowd and the grass are the other reasons why we are happy to be back,” said the Brazil coach. Asked how disruptive this back-and-forth business was, he said: “We will take back happy memories from India; what would really be bad is Brazil not playing a World Cup.”

England coach Steve Cooper was more elaborate. “When we left a week or so earlier, we were a little sad to leave and though it was in our plans to come back, we didn’t think we would return this early. As soon as the boys were told about the shift, we got a positive response,” he said.

Semi-finals being shifted in a World Cup are rare but once it happened, England benefited. That was in 1966 when the England-Portugal semi-final was moved from Goodison Park to Wembley. And that wasn’t the only time a match in a FIFA tournament was shifted.

In 2014, Real Madrid’s semi-final in the Club World Cup in Morocco had to be relocated from the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat to the Stade de Marrakech because the pitch was not suitable.

“Guwahati was an act of God. Had Kolkata not reacted so fast to get ready, this may have been a black mark on the competition. Not now,” said Subrata Dutta, senior vice-president of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) who is also part of the local organising committee, and member, board of directors of the U-17 World Cup.

First Published: Oct 24, 2017 22:56 IST

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