FIFA U-17 World Cup: Guwahati refund turnout low, ‘Kolkata lobby’ blamed for shift
The Guwahati football fans blamed the ‘Kolkata lobby’ for shifting the FIFA U-17 World Cup between England and Brazil to the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 24, 2017 22:27 IST
As state sports officials washed their hands off the pitch debacle that made FIFA shift Wednesday’s Brazil-England semi-final from Guwahati to Kolkata, very few turned up for refund of the tickets for the match ‘denied’.
Football fans, who had been awaiting the semi-final mainly because of Brazil, also blamed the ‘Kolkata lobby within FIFA’ for shifting the match that ‘could have been held after it stopped raining on Monday morning’. (Guwahati refund process)
FIFA’s local organising committee (LOC) had fixed Tuesday and Wednesday for refunding customers who had purchased tickets in cash. But only about 500, mostly those in the vicinity of the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, turned up to claim their money from a counter at the inter-state bus terminal nearby.
“The complimentary tickets aside, most of the 35,000 tickets were purchased online. Of the 10% purchased in cash, some 500 claimed refund. We hope the remaining ticket holders do so by 9pm tomorrow (Wednesday),” a member of LOC said.
Most of the tickets were category 2 (for the stadium’s east stand) priced Rs 400 each and category 3 (north and south stands) priced Rs 200. The category 1 tickets for the west stand were priced R 800, but almost all were complimentary.
The LOC got a few enquiries about FIFA’s offer for Guwahati ticket holders to attend the match in Kolkata by carrying their online proof of purchase, but ‘no one has taken the offer yet’. Some dejected fans did not see any point in claiming refund.
“The stadium, on the outskirts of the city, is about 15-16 km from the central part. Getting back Rs 200 by spending as much on fuel will be penny wise pound foolish,” 32-year-old Dibya Rabha of the city’s Chabipool locality said.
Hafiz Ahmed, 29, of Panjabari locality was crossed at local authorities for ‘not doing enough’ to prevent FIFA from shifting the match. “But the Kolkata lobby within the football fraternity was perhaps too strong,” he said.
“Money is not an issue. What hurts is the denial of a match that could have been held after the weather cleared two days ahead of schedule. This is a conspiracy of the Indian football heads that could impact Assam’s bid to hold international matches in the future,” said Rupjyoti Sarma, 31, a resident of Zoo Road.
Pabitra Ram Khaund, Assam’s director of sports, said the state government took care only of the infrastructure around the pitch according to FIFA specifications. “The pitch was allotted to them in May. They did not discuss the plans with us and we did not ask. So we are not in a position to say what exactly they did with the pitch,” he told Hindustan Times.
State officials were vague in replying if they had briefed FIFA about the 11-year-old drainage system under the pitch in case of heavy or prolonged rainfall. Clogged pipes led to water-logging on the pitch, rendering it unfit for play after the Mali-Ghana quarterfinal on October 21.