FIFA U-17 World Cup: Cristiano Ronaldo to visit India for the draw?
The four-time Ballon d'Or winner's visit could send the whole of India into a frenzy.
What’s the story?
Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to visit India in July this year. The Ballon d’Or holder is set to grace the draw for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup that will be staged in India this October.
The date of the draw is 7th July, and All India Football Federation president Praful Patel has confirmed that the governing body are locked in talks with the Portugal Football Federation and Ronaldo’s agent, Jorge Mendes, to set up the 32-year-old’s visit to India.
The FIFA Under-17 World Cup kicks off on the 6th of October. As hosts, India will feature in the 24-team event, which will be the first time an Indian team will participate in a FIFA tournament. The draw is scheduled to be held in Mumbai on the 7th of July, before which we will know the names of all 24 qualified teams.
Ronaldo’s availability depends on his match schedule with Real Madrid as well as the Portugal national team, of which he is the captain.
The heart of the matter
Patel also admitted to the fact that should Ronaldo not declare his availability, AIFF will try to rope in another big-name star in world football for the occasion of the draw.
He also revealed that at least one global star will be invited to India for the gala event, but whether or not that is Ronaldo is yet to be confirmed.
Ronaldo’s 2016/17 season with Real Madrid is scheduled to finish on the 4th of June with the Champions League final in Cardiff. He will then link up with his Portugal teammates for the Confederation Cup 2017, which starts in Russia on the 17th of June and ends on the 2nd of July.
Since the date of the draw is five days after the end of the Confederation Cup, Ronaldo should be able to make it to India even if Portugal reach the final.
Ronaldo is clearly the biggest star in world football, and his visit to India could change the entire landscape of football in the country. It will be an endorsement of Indian football from a popular global brand, and judging by the developments in the recent past, Ronaldo coming to India doesn’t look inconceivable.
The AIFF recently appointed a Portuguese coach, Luis Norton de Matos, for the Indian Under-17 team after Jose Mourinho and the Portuguese federation’s glowing referrals. The new India Colts head coach also oversaw an exposure trip to Portugal where his charges played six friendlies against Portuguese clubs’ youth teams, including those from Benfica and Sporting Lisbon.
The AIFF has associated positively with its Portuguese counterpart of late and getting Ronaldo to kick start proceedings for what will be the first ever FIFA tournament in India will be a welcome step in the right direction.