FIFA U-17 World Cup: New Delhi all but prepared to host India’s feel-good story
New Delhi, which will host all of India’s group games in the FIFA U-17 World Cup, is well-prepared to host the tournament even as ticket sales remain a concern.Updated: Aug 04, 2017, 18:36 IST
The FIFA U-17 World Cup is barely two months away, meaning that cities hosting the biennial tournament should be in advanced stages of their preparations.
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi will be hosting all of India’s group games and expectations from the organisers are undoubtedly high.
“Organising is a challenge. We have to deal with multiple chief ministers across states and multiple sports ministers too. Things like demonetisation and GST implementation added to the challenge. But preparation is going well,” Javier Ceppi, the tournament director of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), said on Friday.
“We are about 95 percent done with preparations. The stadium is a beautiful venue that will be made even more beautiful (during the tournament).”
However, no amount of beautification will look good if the venue is empty come the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Ticket sales have been a cause of concern at many venues and Ceppi admitted it was no different in the national capital.
“Ticket sales improved after New Delhi was confirmed as the venue for India’s games, but we expected better. We appeal to all fans of Indian football to ensure this ground is full for India’s group games,” added Ceppi.
“This will be the first time the Indian national anthem will be played out loud at a FIFA tournament. That should be enough to get you excited.”
Joy Bhattacharjya, who is the project director of the LOC, had a more positive take.
“We have sold 20 percent of the allocated tickets without any major promotion, either on TV or through our advertising partners. These numbers are organic and will only rise with proper promotion,” he said.
Whilst India are not among the top teams of the tournament, Ceppi believes that fan support could go a long way in ensuring that players give it their all.
“If thousands of Indians are singing the national anthem inside the stadium, it will create an atmosphere that will spur the players on and motivate them to do better,” he said.
“The fact that the stadium is multi-purpose means that there will be considerable space between fans and the pitch, but it won’t be an issue. World Cup finals have been hosted in multi-purpose stadiums before.”
But despite concerns, Bhattacharjya and Ceppi were optimistic that both the venue and the fans will be ready for the tournament when it starts.
“If we do the World Cup right, it will mean a lot for India. After the Commonwealth Games issues, we want to prove that we can run a tournament in a transparent and efficient manner,” said Bhattacharjya with Ceppi concluding that “this can be a feel-good story for India”.