The All India Football Federation’s bid to host the 2017 FIFA under-17 World Cup received a major fillip on Thursday when the Union Cabinet gave its approval to the project.

According to the agreement, the Central Government will provide Rs.120 crore for the venture, including Rs.95 crore to State Governments for upgrading the stadiums.

The AIFF, in its proposal to the government, has listed five states for hosting the matches — Delhi, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and one among Assam, Goa and Kerala.

Moreover, the government will set aside Rs. 25 crore as contingency to ensure smooth conduct of the tournament.

The expenditure for hosting the World Cup will be entirely borne by the AIFF and FIFA, with sponsorship being one of the major avenues for raising the funds.

Though India has never hosted a FIFA event before, its prospects of landing the tournament look bright. Earlier this year, FIFA Vice-President Prince Ali Ben al-Hussein had publicly stated his support for AIFF’s bid.

Traditionally, the world governing body has awarded the tournament to countries which don’t feature prominently on the global football map.

In this century alone, the biennial event has been held in, among others, Trinidad & Tobago and Peru, while the 2013 competition will be played in the United Arab Emirates later this year.

The AIFF will now submit the bid document with the government and stadium guarantees to FIFA, which will be followed by the governing body’s evaluation process. The final decision will be announced by the FIFA Executive Committee in December.

Azerbaijan, Republic of Ireland, South Africa and Uzbekistan are the other bidders. The identity of the host will not be determined by voting, unlike the FIFA World Cup.

Speaking to The Hindu after the government announced its decision, AIFF General Secretary Kushal Das said: “We have a very good chance (of earning the hosting rights).

“This could be a game-changer for Indian football. If we win it, the academies (to train young players) will be fast-tracked.”

Veteran coach Subhash Bhowmick, however, is not similarly sanguine about India’s capabilities.

“If we host it, it will be a small step (for football in the country). We should take it seriously. If we do that, we can improve. The government hasn’t, generally, supported the sport in the past. So, this will boost our confidence,” the former East Bengal coach said.

The government has scored the goal which keeps India in the contest. Now, we head to extra-time.

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