FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017: FIFA explains how Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium underwent amazing transformation into world-class facility
With the FIFA U17 World Cup set to take stage from the 6th of October, the six host cities and the stadia involved are getting a huge facelift as they get ready to host the best young footballing talents across the world. And the world caught a glimpse at the transformation that awaits them at the upcoming extravaganza when pictures of the renovated Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan came out on social media.
The stadium has been transformed from a concrete jungle that barely met any norm to one that is fit to host the World Cup proper let the U17 one that is set to be held there on the 28th of October.
The renovation work later got a 10/10 from Javier Ceppi, the Tournament Director for the World Cup. And today, he spoke with Sportskeeda about how this transformation came about.
You have seen the complete transformation of the Salt Lake in all these years. What is the biggest difference that you see today?
It is a completely different stadium now. Actually, the biggest differences are the ones that people will not see: now it is a secure and safe stadium to go to. They have implemented a new CCTV System, they have completely changed all the electrical wiring, there is a new firefighting system, the stadium has individual seats, a safe capacity that is akin to its infrastructure, etc. Overall, there is no point of comparison from what it used to be.
You have rated the new YBK 10/10. What according to you would be the old YBK's rating out of 10?
Would rather keep the rating of the new VYBK. It has gone through an astounding number of changes and there is no point of comparison between what was there before and what it is now.
Who were the major contributors to this transformation? What were the contributions of the central Indian government and the state West Bengal government? Who has had a major role to play? And how did the LOC liaise with those bodies?
This was a complete project undertaken by Government of West Bengal. They took the ownership of the renovations, which was done by their PWD Department, and spearheading the whole process was Department of Sports. Of course, the Hon´ble Chief Minister was very involved and interested in the renovation. As liaison and oversight, we took a quite active approach, coming to Kolkata very often, communicating regularly with all the authorities, clearing doubts about the requirements, etc. Most of the renovations also were passed as per our approvals to make sure that they were in line with the requirements of the World Cup.
Given Kolkata is the nerve centre of football in India, did it greatly help in speeding up the process of the YBK's transformation? Or was the football craziness of Kolkata a hindrance to the preparations?
We believe it helped. For West Bengal, hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup is huge, the interest from everyone, from their top political brass to all the millions of football fans in the State is there, and they took an attitude that Kolkata did not have a chance to miss on this opportunity.
As you have said before, you have been to the Soccer City stadium in South Africa as well as the Maracana in Brazil among countless other stadiums. Where would you put the new YBK up there among the historic stadiums, in terms of facilities?
We do not like to do comparisons between stadiums, we only compare one stadium with itself, what was there before and what it is now, and the improvement has been great. What we can say is that VYBK is now a stadium worthy of hosting the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, and not so many stadiums in the world have that distinction.
Is it true that the entire expense of the YBK's transformation was borne by the state government? Now that FIFA has taken over the stadium and 2 percent of the work still needs to be done, will the remaining expenses be borne by FIFA now?
Since the facility is owned by Government of West Bengal and it will be kept for the use and privilege of them in the long term, all costs of infrastructure development and renovation has been borne by Government of West Bengal and, even though we have taken over, the works on the rectification on the infrastructure will also be done by Government of West Bengal.
How challenging has it been dealing with red tapes in India? How big has been the YBK challenge compared to the other host stadiums?
There was a clear plan and approach towards the renovation of infrastructure, that was followed through quite professionally, so no major or insurmountable challenges were faced during the renovations. The government of West Bengal took it as a very important project and the results are there to show, where the facility is a very good level.