There was a lot of talk around the Under-17 World Cup and how if India successfully manages to organize the same, many more mega events would be lined up.
For the Under-17 World Cup, there were countless inspections done including a couple by the Sports Minister of India before the tournament kicked-off. Despite that, the amenities in the stadium were deplorable.
The seats were soiled and dirty at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi. Fans and media had to clean the seats before having no choice but to sit. As Salman Rushdie said, “What you cannot cure, you must simply endure.”
On closer inspection of the stadium and you would see cobwebs all around. The air conditioner in the press room was leaking a day before the game.
To experience what the fans had to endure, one simply had to take look at the direction boards outside the stadium. For example: it would say that for Zone 2 which has gates 17, 18, go straight. When you do want to go straight, the security has blocked that particular road!
Even after the kick-off, there were several fans outside the stadium who asked volunteers and security personnel as to where a particular gate was and the response was - we don’t know. Also there were no lights outside several gates in Delhi which made it difficult for fans.
There was one gentleman with a car pass who was asked by the local police to park outside the stadium and they too weren’t in the know as to where one could park the car.
The apathy wasn’t just limited to fans. Even in the VIP section, one member of the AIFF Executive Committee was assigned a ticket however, the seat was nowhere to be found!
Goal spoke to a few fans during the game and their statements would tell you a thing or two about how commercially focused the organizers have been, not keeping the interest of the fans on utmost priority.
“There was no water at the stadium in Delhi. However, we did manage to find a store selling a famous cola drink, who are the sponsors of the event. I had to shell out INR 100 for two sips of the drink offered in a small paper glass.
“The point is that if you can sell the cola drink, why didn’t you arrange for water at the event?” asked a fan, who is a regular for matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Another pertinent question to be raised is where the organizers ready to host Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi?
Does in every event the PM attends, are people deprived of water? Certainly not. The blame should be shouldered by the organizers of the World Cup. A day before the match, the LOC put up a post on social media informing that remote car keys will not be allowed. In this day and age, almost every car has a remote key. The point is such communication needs to be made way earlier. This was not provided for in the list of items which fans must not bring to the stadium in the FIFA document as well.
“We know that there were issues with the distribution of water for the first match day of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 in New Delhi. There was a provision made by the stadium, as providing drinking water is the responsibility of the facility owner, but there was a lapse on the distribution,” read a statement from LOC putting the blame squarely on Sports Authority of India (SAI).
However, is the responsibility of LOC just to deliver the stadium or also be bothered about the fan experience? Wasn't it their duty to check if the stadium authorities do have a plan in place?
In Kolkata, there was one food stall to cater to almost 6000 fans. Two pouches of water provided per ticket. If you feel thirstier, quench it by buying the exorbitantly priced sugar drink. Also the picture from a toilet would give you a fair idea of what a fan has to undergo in order to enjoy the beautiful game in India.
It's time to start making the experience beautiful, something which the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Indian Super League (ISL) has successfully managed to do so. There is a reason why these tournaments are successful.
Probably, the organizers and the Sports Minister can take some action instead of giving out statements or tweeting.
Fan experience is a very important factor for us. Please take what help you need from us & improve upon delivery of basics like food & water https://t.co/174ymNFOTh— Rajyavardhan Rathore (@Ra_THORe) October 8, 2017