Football fans have often accused the government of treating the sport as a poor cousin of Cricket. Their unanimous backing for the U-17 World Cup bid though, is a welcome sign...
In what was a major boost to India’s hope of hosting the U-17 Football World Cup in 2017, the Indian government on Thursday gave its green signal to the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) decision to bid for the tournament.
By assuring FIFA that it would look after all the facilities they had specifically asked for, including tax exemption, security, transport and accommodation of players, visa and foreign exchange, the government has ensured that India’s bid, which already had the tacit backing of FIFA vice-president Jerome Valcke, will now make for an even more attractive proposition.
Valcke, during his visit last year to the country had stated how he hoped the tournament went to a country that needed the boost at the grass-roots level, hinting at his preference for India, and while countries like Ireland, Uzbekistan, Indonesia and South Africa are in the fray, India now look the favourites to win in the bidding process.
The ministry statement on Wednesday noted how holding such a big tournament would lead to increase in the interest in the game in India, while also helping attract sports tourists into the country, which can be a great source of income. The release stated, "The proposed Under-17 World Cup would encourage more youngsters to participate in sports and also help develop the sport of football in the country. It will also promote tourism in the country.”
"The event also has a lot of importance from the point of view of playing technique, training, coaching and competition exposure, etc, especially at under-17 level, and thus would be good for the future of football in India," the circular had further added.
A better future for the Blue Tigers...
The nation’s footballers, starved of top-class football action, would for once, get the chance to rub shoulders with the best young talents in the world, and give them a first-hand experience of what they need to add to their technique and methods to progress as footballers.
Besides as mentioned in every article chronicling the reasons why the country needs to host the tournament, the competition would help revamp the sorry infrastructure that presently is passed off as footballing facilities in India.
Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Goa, Cochin and Kolkata have been shortlisted as the likely venues for the gala event with Assam being one of the back-ups. The tournament has the potential of laying the foundations for a brighter future for Indian football.
And the most heartening part of these developments is the fact that the Government seems to have finally taken a keen interest in the state of affairs of the game in the country.
While there is no denying that football is popular in the country, the game has suffered at the grassroots, and authorities have often been blamed for showing a lack of interest in the sport, while its richer cousin, Cricket, has in the views of several football fanatics, been rolled the red carpet, on several occasions.
Fears of such step-motherly treatment might be allayed for now, as the government is taking keen interest in helping organizing the tournament, with funds upto INR 95 crores being sanctioned for the upgradation of stadiums, as assistance to state governments, while a sum of INR 25 crore is kept as a contingency to ensure smooth conduct of the tournament.
Add to that the fact that hosting such a big tournament might finally see corporate big-wigs dip into the Indian football market as sponsors. Such unprecedented government and corporate backing, alongwith the improved infrastructure, may become the biggest legacy of the tournament, if India manages to win the hosting rights.
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