FIFA U17 World Cup 2017: Kolkata promised and promptly delivered
If there was any doubt about crowd support for the U-17 World Cup, Kolkata has cleared it all.
At the stroke of the dusk, the floodlight gleamed on the pitch, which looked efficient enough to host another match of the tournament. The PA guys checked their music, the advertisement boards looked in place, the housekeeping with last-minute touch-ups as I went for a round of inspection to report to my coordinator.
An 8 pm match, weekday, plus a day that was only two away from Diwali, I was quite convinced that Kolkata will see the lowest turn-up today. However, as the gates opened people started pouring in, in groups of 3-4. By 7 pm, half the stands were empty, quite uncharacteristically from Kolkata's standards. Even with such constraints on a match day somewhere deep down the line, you have to trust Kolkata to figure out a way to fill in the numbers.
By 8:30, the gates started flooding in with people, a majority of them straight from work. Within the span of half an hour or so the only stands remaining empty were the ones on the upper tier, disallowed for public viewing. It's absolutely mesmerising to see such a turn up for such an event on such a sensitive day.
It's absolutely mesmerising to see such a turn up for such an event on such a sensitive day. One could feel a sense of compulsion from the spectators to come and fill the stands and maybe that's what separates Kolkata from the rest.
With an average attendance of over 50k, the city looks to be one of the thriving grounds of football in the country. It is also one of the few places in India which has an equal share of fan-base for Indian and European clubs. The passion and the support that is showed by the city might as well bring India the hosting rights for the U-20 World Cup to be held in 2019.
Even though Kolkata haven't yet witnessed a high profile match so far the turnouts shows the potential for the upcoming knockout matches. We might as well get to see a full-house stadium in the next one when Brazil takes on Germany. Brazil has a strong support in the city and people are sure to flock into the stadium this Sunday.
It will be very interesting to see if the match matches the expectation set by the crowd. Either way, it promises a full house at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, considering its a weekend.
The state government has given the city what it deserves, a world-class capacity stadium. A stadium which was once under no governance whatsoever is now updated with no-smoking signages, VIP parking places and improved wash-room facilities. It's worth watching how people take care of it post the World Cup.