As the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup draws ever so close, voices from all around India have waxed lyricals about the fact that the country's U17 team is going to represent the country in its first ever football World Cup across any age group.
It is to be expected given that the country, where football is gaining a foothold thanks to the advent of the Indian Super League (ISL) and the performances of the senior men's national team, is hosting its first ever FIFA tournament.
It is ever so apparent in FIFA's Local Organising Committee (LOC) Chairman Javier Ceppi's words - "India is not treating the U17 World Cup as a regular competition. India has realised the value and the importance of hosting a FIFA event."
Naturally, permutations and combinations as to who will progress from the group stages, whether India can put up a good show or which team is best prepared to go all the way and win the final on October 28th in Kolkata have been discussed and dissected.
But does a youth football extravaganza deserve so much analysis and insight?
FIFA's U17 World Cup was inspired by the Lion City Cup in Singapore, designed to provide U16 players with a global platform to showcase their talents and pit their wits against the best from foreign countries. The objective holds true even now.
To verify the claim, one only has to take a look at the media coverage the event has been getting outside of India. Even traditional footballing powerhouses like Brazil, Germany, Spain or England have not gone into a frenzy over the tournament. For example, Brazil did not include Flamengo wonderkid Vinicius Jr., who has been bought by Real Madrid already, in their squad after the club refused to release him.
Imagine the public outcry in Brazil if PSG had not released Neymar for a FIFA Men's World Cup, which was missing in Vinicius Jr.'s case despite him topscoring with seven goals during Brazil's victorious 2017 South American U17 Championship campaign. It wasn't so because the tournament is largely seen as an avenue where future talents announce themselves to the world rather than another piece of global silverware.
The young kids about to strut their stuff in the World Cup are not seasoned professionals but highly talented individuals who are still honing their skills and maturing both physically and mentally. Rightly, the footballing world's perception of this particular tournament is that it is a talent churning exercise where one might unearth the next world-beating player rather than the next world-beating team.
To put it into perspective, we have seen the likes of Toni Kroos and Cesc Fabregas shoot into prominence after excelling in the FIFA U17 World Cup. But we have not seen the record title winners Nigeria (won the tournament five times) ever progress beyond the Round of 16 in a senior World Cup.
Which is why we will not witness the elite crop of footballing figures fly down to India to add glitz to the tournament. Instead, the best youth scouts from most European clubs will be the ones present, in order to spot the new kids on the block early and/or ensure their targets are progressing well.
The message is well and clear - results do not matter in the U17 World Cup but the football does! Breathe it in, enjoy it and celebrate it - for you might well be witnessing the future Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
What one does not need to do is put enormous pressure on young shoulders and cripple them before they are ready to spread their wings and take to the skies!