FIFA is set to shift India’s Under-17 World Cup matches from Mumbai to the national capital Delhi as the apex soccer body has taken the host government’s request “very seriously”.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) initially wanted Mumbai to host India’s home matches but later asked FIFA to shift them to Delhi due to pressure from the sports ministry as it felt it was appropriate that the capital hosts the home team’s games.
Asked if they have finalised on shifting India’s round robin matches from Mumbai to Delhi, FIFA’s head of events Jaime Yarza told PTI, “We are working on the most beneficial decision for the tournament. We take the requests from the Indian Government very seriously, as it’s our main partner in the organisation of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.”
As hosts, India would normally be placed in Group A and will be the number one team — A1 — in the four-team group. Navi Mumbai was originally scheduled to host Group A matches but the AIFF’s request means Delhi could now host those while Navi Mumbai will have to settle for Group B games.
A source, in the know of the developments, said FIFA is “very close” to shift the matches.
“Together with the AIFF and the Government, this world cup will change the future of football in India. We are convinced to reach a decision which will satisfy all parties,” Yarza said.
The first FIFA event in India will be held across six Indian cities from October 6 to 28.
Though he did not reveal the names, Yarza said at least two top players will be present on the the day of the official draw in Mumbai on July 7.
“Well, we cannot spoil the fun for the fans. We will have two top players for the official draw on the 7th July, as well as some other appearances until the start of the tournament.
“But it’s difficult to find time on the agendas of such football legends, so we’d rather work carefully to make sure that these legends make an impact on the Indian fans. But one thing we can confirm: football fans will not be disappointed!”
Even as the response to ticket sales continues to be lukewarm in centres such as Goa and Delhi, Yarza sounded confident that it would pick up after the draw.
“We are very satisfied with venues like Guhawati, Kochi or Kolkata. The Indian public seems to be aware of the importance of this world cup for the future of football in India, and no one would like to miss the stars of tomorrow in their own country.
“Having said that, we need to increase our efforts in Navi Mumbai, New Delhi and Goa. But it’s customary that ticket sales increases once the teams’ venues are known, so we’ll analyse carefully the ticket sales reports after the draw. In general, FIFA is very satisfied with ticket sales until now.