The international football governing body FIFA announced on Monday that the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata will host the final of the U-17 World Cup on October 28 while the two semi-finals will be held in Guwahati and Navi Mumbai.
The junior World Cup will take place in India for the first time and gets underway on October 6. The slogan of the World Cup will be “Football Takes Over”. There will be 24 teams competing in six cities. The match schedule was announced by Tournament Director Javier Ceppi. The Salt Lake Stadium will host the maximum number — ten — of matches, including the summit clash.
The colossal stadium, which has previously hosted Lionel Messi and Oliver Kahn’s Germany, will also have one round-of-sixteen tie, one quarter-final, a third-place game and six Group F matches. Group A will be played in Navi Mumbai while Group B will be hosted by New Delhi. Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium will have one round-of-16 tie and one semi-final and Delhi will have two round-of-16 matches.
Goa will host Group C and two round-of-16 matches and one quarter-final, while Kochi will shelter Group D, one round-of-16 tie and a quarter-final. Group E matches will be in Guwahati with one-round-of 16 tie, one quarter-final and one semi clash.
A 21-member-FIFA and Local Organising Committee visited the Salt Lake stadium to assess the preparedness.
Kolkta was FIFA’s last stop for inspection. The governing body of world football visited all five venues — New Delhi, Goa, Navi Mumbai, Kochi and Guwahati — and were left disappointed with the renovation work in Kochi. They also asked Delhi to work on the training pitches.
“This is also one of the stadiums which has improved since my last visit. It is on the way to become one of the top stadiums in India,” head of events Jaime Yarza said.
“We are happy. This is a stadium that is fulfilling all the high standards. Obviously, it is finished. Things can change but we have received guarantees from the ministers that everything will develop like we requested. Then we can have a fantastic World Cup here,” he added.
Tournament Director Ceppi said that the availability of six training pitches here was the reason behind awarding Kolkata the final.
“Regarding the training grounds, we have a very unique situation we have six training grounds. Because we can have six training grounds, we are having the final here,” he said.
Asked about legends of the sport visiting the country for various promotion activities ahead of the World Cup, Ceppi said: “We will bring legends to various activities to India but we can’t confirm anything.”
Yarza said organising the World Cup in India was one of the most challenging.
“Well, it is true it is one of the most challenging world cups we have ever done. This is why the satisfaction for this will be higher when this is over,” Yarza said.
“From the beginning, there was the need to touch the soul of the young people of India with additional activities and we just did not take it as a World Cup,” he said.
“There has been a lot of logistical challenges. These are one of the most tiring inspection visits we have ever done. We believe there is a revolution happening here. This is not just a World Cup, this is the development of football for almost 500 million kids in India. We really hope that when the final is played, no matter who wins, football will be the winner,” he added.
Also present during the inspection were All India Football Federation (AIFF) Vice President Subrata Dutta, IAS officer S.A. Baba, and Minister of State for Sports Laxmi Ratan Shukla.