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FIFA U-17 World Cup: India could set attendance record at World Cup

The U-17 World Cup kicks off on 6th October.


Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium will host the FIFA U-17 World  Cup final this year
Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium will host the FIFA U-17 World Cup final this year

The FIFA U-17 World Cup heads to Asia for the fifth time this year as India gears up to welcome the world in a first of its kind event in the country. 24 teams will fight for the title at the 23-day tournament, which will be the first time an Indian team has participated in a FIFA World Cup, senior and age-group alike.

While all eyes are fixed on how the sleeping giant of world football wakes up to the reality of hosting a FIFA World Cup, albeit being a youth one, the second most populous country in the world could set a U-17 World Cup attendance record by the time the tournament comes to an end on 28th October.

Taking into account FIFA's data from past U-17 World Cups, India is well-placed to eclipse attendance figures from previous editions, should all the stadiums entertain a capacity crowd for all the matches.

Following are the capacities of the six host venues for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup:

Kolkata: 66,600

Delhi: 58,000

Margao: 16,200

Guwahati: 23,800

Kochi: 41,700

Mumbai: 45,300

Among the six venues, Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium will play host to the most number of matches (10), including the final and the third place match. Guwahati and Margao will stage nine matches each, while Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi will host eight games each.

Should we consider 100 percent attendance figures at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017, which is a bridge too far, India 2017 could end up having a total of 2,186,000 spectators walking in through the turnstiles. That would amount to a new world record, considering the fact that the highest attendance number at a U-17 World Cup currently stands at 1,231,000, achieved at the inaugural championship in China in 1985.

Since 1985, attendance figures at U-17 World Cups have varied wildly, which can be attributed to the varying stadium capacities in different host nations over the years. The 1997 U-17 World Cup in Egypt and the 2011 edition in Mexico have had the biggest spectator numbers after China 1985, but India could be set to upset the existing order later this year.

While having full house stadiums at a U-17 World Cup is a far-fetched dream, India could still clock second highest attendance numbers even if the turnout is half the total capacity of the host venues. During the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, only 49% of the total capacity of the eight host stadiums were filled, a sorry reading for the local organisers as well as FIFA, but that is understandable given U-17 World Cups don't really catch the fancy of masses like senior World Cups do.

If we go by the 49% figure for India as well, this year's U-17 World Cup could see the newest FIFA host nation post the second highest attendance figure of all time, behind only China, its neighbouring state. Even if the stadiums are filled with less than half of their total capacity (49%, like Chile 2015), India 2017 will easily surpass all other U-17 World Cups apart from China 1985 with a total spectator number of 1,071,140.

Following is the table of average attendances at previous U-17 World Cups. India is also included and the attendance percentage from Chile 2015 is taken into consideration for India 2017.


China 1985 has had the best U-17 attendance figures until now
China 1985 has had the best U-17 attendance figures until now

While an Indian team playing at a FIFA World Cup is already a landmark moment for Indian football, the potential to host the biggest ever FIFA U-17 World Cup will mark the event as a watershed moment in Indian football history.

Ticket sales for the tournament have been patchy at best, with contrasting responses in different host cities. However, should the Indian population fill up every stadium to its full capacity, India 2017 could surpass China 1985 to become the highest attended FIFA U-17 World Cup ever. That said, even if the stadiums are half-empty, India 2017 will become the second highest attended U-17 World Cup ever.

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