Yesterday FIFA president Sepp Blatter confirmed India as the hosts of the Under-17 FIFA World Cup in 2017. The announcement brought immense joy to football fans all over the country and even Indians living abroad as the 24-team tournament will by far be the biggest football event that India has ever hosted.
Blatter was quoted saying, “This is another historical decision we have taken. India, the sub-continent with 1.2 billion people have been appointed to organise FIFA U17 world cup with 24 teams in 2017.”
The Indian football fraternity too is excited about India hosting such a huge tournament. Down below are some reactions.
S. Brahmanand (Former India goalkeeper and Arjuna Awardee): “The allotment of U-17 World Cup to India is a great moment. It really helps in taking football to all corners of our nation. The conduct of a world-level tournament will raise the standards in the way the game is played and managed. As far as our preparation goes, I strongly feel we need a national coach of the calibre of Guus Hiddink. The way this Dutchman went about identifying players and developing the South Korea team for 2002 World Cup was admirable. India has talent at the junior level, appointing right persons to scout for players and then have a plan in place to provide them international exposure will help in building a squad in time for 2017 when the World Cup arrives.”
Henry Menezes (Former India goalkeeper and current CEO of Western India Football Association): “The right to host the U-17 WC is bigger for India than attempting to bid for the senior World Cup. The latter competition involves the elite, an event of this scale involving the U-17 means involvement of young players and parents, friends and the community. Corporates are on the lookout for a second sport in India to promote, apart from cricket. The host cities will benefit. We do not know India’s strength, the World Cup will reveal to us this aspect. A new set-up needs to be created to do talent spotting for the FIFA tournament. The immediate need is to create a pool of qualified coaches to identify talented young players.”
Santosh Kashyap (Rangdajied United head coach): “This is the spark Indian football needs and the result of many years of hard work, ever since FIFA chief Sepp Blatter made the trip to India. The AIFF has been following it up and now our junior footballers will get a chance to compete in the World Cup. The development of infrastructure will be particularly useful in the long run. Football is the only sport people follow in north-east India and the game’s followers here are looking forward to the event.”
PTI quoted the legendary Chuni Goswami: “It’s certainly a great step for development of Indian football. All the stakeholders will have to work in tandem to make the tournament a success. It will be a lesson for our youngsters to play alongside the best in the world. We have talented young kids on the block. Lack of exposure has kept them behind. Things will change with the World Cup. It will give us a huge boost.”
Former captain I M Vijayan stated: “This tournament may change the face of football in India. We have the capacity to hold the tournament successfully. I feel at the youth and junior level we can compete at the world level. So, this may bring a beginning of the change in Indian football we are looking for.”
Shaji Prabhakaran, FIFA Development Officer for South and Central Asia, said: “This tournament may be a game-changer, it will give a great push towards India’s ambitions to become a footballing nation. It will put India in the limelight of world football. The hard work will start now, but I feel the AIFF and all the stakeholders together can make the tournament a success.”
India international and East Bengal captain Mehtab Hossain opined: “I’m over the moon to hear the news. It’s a great feeling. Indian football will reach new heights. The real standard of football will develop through this. I’m sure many more world class venues would come up.”
Mohun Bagan legend Subrata Bhattacharya added: “Besides developing Indian football, I’m pretty sure that the business barons, corporates too slowly will be interested in taking up the sport. When there’s money there’s development. Indian football will only benefit from an event of this stature.”There are many India cities where football is hugely popular and followed. This will further popularise the sport. It’s the step in the right direction. I’m really delighted. It’s a great moment.”
India goalkeeper Subrata Pal, who will join Danish top tier outfit FC Vestsjaellaned in January, stated, “In my point of view, this is the biggest thing to happen to Indian football. We never ever thought that India would host a World Cup. It’s like a dream come true for us. We’re getting it all started with U-17 World Cup, hopefully we would one day get to host the World Cup. After all, this is the beginning.”