U17 WORLD CUP SPECIAL | BY SWAPNANEEL PARASAR Follow @Swapyo on Twitter
A is for Age Fraud: The beautiful game has been ravaged deep in the grassroots level by age fudging for decades. It has become a matter of high priority for FIFA and the FIFA Medical Assessment and Research Centre (F-MARC) to ensure that this does not affect the tournament. However, we list down as to how to protest against age cheating.
B is for Ball: The official match ball for the tournament is the Krasava. It is the same one which was used for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia and the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup in South Korea.
C is for Celebrations: Be it Pogba's dab, Dybala's mask, Ronaldo's jump or even Peter Crouch's robot, the youngsters are not short of any inspiration. Be ready for some inventive dazzle down the touchline by the teenagers after they score a goal.
D is for Diwali: The tournament coincides with the Indian festival of lights and fireworks - Diwali. Thankfully, there are no matches on 19th October, the day of the festival. With the Round of 16 to be over by the 18th, the quarter-finalists can relax and enjoy the occasion.
E is for Exposure Trips: The Indian U17 team crisscrossed the whole globe, clocking more than 200,000 air miles in the last two years of preparation for the mega event. A total of somewhere between ₹ 10 Crores ($ 1.5 million) to ₹ 15 Crores ($ 2.2 million) have been spent on the Blue Cubs, where they have visited 18 countries and played 84 matches in these exposure trips abroad.
F is for Finance: The event had an initial budget of ₹ 78 Crores ($ 12 million) of which FIFA had sanctioned around ₹32-38 Crores ($ 5-6 million). The Indian federal government committed to spending another ₹ 120 Crores ($ 19 million), making it the most expensive football event ever hosted by India, by quite some margin.
G is for Galatasaray: Istanbul-based club side Galatasaray have the maximum representation with 7 members of the Turkish squad from their academy. Paraguay's Club Olimpia, Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa and Mexico's CD Guadalajara come in next on the list with six players each.
H is for Host Nation: It is the first time India is participating in a FIFA tournament's finals as well as hosting it. Azerbaijan, Republic of Ireland and Uzbekistan were the other nations who submitted bids for the hosting rights but FIFA revealed India as the winners on 5 December 2013.
I is for Injuries: With the likes of India's Aman Chetri and Narender Singh and Ghana's Faisal Osman's dreams already over before they began due to long-term injuries, tournaments like these can turn out to be a nightmare for those few unlucky players.
J is for Javier Ceppi: The brain behind the entire organising operation of the tournament, Ceppi has also served as the CEO of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) during the last U17 World Cup in Chile, 2015.
K is for Knockout: This edition will feature sixteen knockout games, beginning from the Round of 16 games right up till the final day. Knockout games mean much more drama, late turnarounds and joy and sorrow at the same time.
L is for Losers: There is always a winner and a loser in a sport. Leaving a bitter taste in the mouth, defeat is much hard to handle with and can make or break players. But the question is, do results really matter in age-group football?
M is for Mascot: You just cannot have a FIFA event without a mascot and Kheleo here fills the void. The fun-loving soccer-mad cloud leopard makes sure football takes over India.
N is for Nehru-Gandhi family: Stadiums in four of the six venues are named after former Prime Ministers of India. Jawaharlal Nehru has three stadiums named after him in New Delhi, Goa and Kochi. The Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati is named after his daughter, the only female prime minister of India till date. Even a training venue in Guwahati is named as the Nehru Stadium.
O is for Overseas Scouting Program (OSP): The AIFF began the OSP to find Non-Resident Indian talents abroad to include in the World Cup squad. Spearheaded by the COO of the Indian team, Abhishek Yadav, the scouting network was successful in bringing in two players - Namit Deshpande from the USA and Sunny Dhaliwal from Canada into the India U17 team.
P is for Penalty: The most controversial part of the game, referees will only have a split second to decide and award spot-kicks to teams upon infringements during the match. How often have we seen penalties change the outcome of the match in crunch ties on such a stage?
Q is for Qualification Process: 23 teams from six confederations passed the first test and booked their tickets to India in a process which had begun in 2016. Interestingly, India would not have even qualified given they were knocked out of the first round of the 2016 AFC U16 Championship in the first round without a single win.
R is for Referee: The FIFA Referees Committee have appointed 21 trios of match officials, representing all six confederations. FIFA has also selected seven support referees, but with a twist: for the first-ever time, FIFA has selected female referees for a men’s tournament.
S is for Song: What's a FIFA tournament without a foot-tapping number? Karke Dikhla De Goal, which translates to 'Show that you can score a goal' features Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia along with Kerala Blasters co-owner Sachin Tendulkar and singer Babul Supriyo is the official song of the tournament.
T is for Toronto FC: Canada-based MLS side Toronto FC are the only club who will have two representations from their academy but neither of them for Canada (who did not qualify). Interestingly, both Sunny Dhaliwal (India) and Ayo Akinola (USA) will be in opposite camps on the opening day itself when both these nations clash in New Delhi on 6 October.
U is for Upliftment: The Indian central government sanctioned ₹ 95 Crores ($ 14 million) as central assistance for states to develop new or uplift existing infrastructure. A further ₹ 200 Crores ($ 30 million), approximately has been spent by state governments in order to fall in line with all of FIFA's requirements.
V is for Video Assistant Referee (VAR): Much has been made of VAR ever since its inception in the world of football. Making its debut in the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup, it was put to use again in this year's Confederations Cup and U20 World Cup. With mixed reviews from various quarters, India will, however, miss the boat as the VAR gives the tournament a miss.
W is for Weather: India is a vast country and it is only apt that one should expect varying degrees of climatic conditions throughout all the host cities. Dry in New Delhi, chilly winds of the Himalayan foothills in Guwahati, humid in Kolkata, Mumbai and Kochi and plenty of Sun, sand and sea in Goa - there is so much to explore.
X is for X-Rated Challenge: A little bit of argy-bargy is a common sight in contact sports but when it comes to such a stage in age-group football, expect some flying boots and rash knocks with all that adrenaline rushing. All in good health till the sport is played within the spirit of the game.
Y is for Yuvabharati Krirangan: The Salt Lake Stadium or Yuvabharati Krirangan in Kolkata will host the grand finale on 28 October. An arena which once housed more than 120,000 is also home to one of Asia's most pulsating footballing rivalries, the Mohun Bagan - East Bengal Kolkata derby.
Z is for Zonal Marking: Tactics is a major module of the modern game and getting it right is the bigger challenge. With new age managers opting for the zonal marking and wing-back system, how many new formations and tactics will we see in this junior world cup?