Recent internal squabbles and dissensions in the Tamil Nadu Football Association (TFA) may have put Chennai, which has previously played host to the Nehru Cup and SAF Games, in a position of disadvantage.

The city, after failing to find buyers for a franchisee in the inaugural Indian Super League, is now almost sure to miss out on the opportunity to host any matches of the FIFA under-17 World Cup, slated to be held in India in 2017. The TFA had expressed its interest to hold matches for the event way after the initial deadline.

“We got the TFA’s letter of interest after the deadline had expired. But, we made an exception and asked them to submit the required documents related to the host city agreement,” AIFF secretary Kushal Das said. “But till date they have not submitted any of the documents and we can safely assume they are out of contention.”

Every host city-designate needs to furnish a memorandum of understanding relating to stadium, practice pitches, other infrastructure and also an undertaking on security from the local government.

The FIFA delegation, headed by Inaki Alvarez, deputy director and head of event management (competitions division), made an initial inspection of the eight proposed venues — Kolkata, Kochi, Guwahati, Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai and Goa — in February and has suggested a slew of measures to the local organisers to improve pitch conditions, training facilities and organisational capabilities.

Work to do

“All the cities have quite a bit of work to do in terms of training sites. Some of the cities have considerable work to do in terms of getting their stadiums ready. Then there is the work of developing the necessary organisation too,” Alvarez told The Hindu. The FIFA team is expected to come for its second visit sometime in October and announce the six host cities by March 2015.

Talking about the possibility of other cities, apart from the eight above, winning the right to host matches, Alvarez said: “We are only looking at the eight at this point of time as they have been part of the bidding process. However, depending on the responses of the eight to the first visit and the extent of work, additional options always exist.”

A tiny ray of hope for Chennai!

Latching on to such hope, TFA Secretary Ravikumar David said: “We have gone about with the process of sending in the guarantees as required by FIFA to the AIFF. The matter is now with the legal section and once the elections are over, we hope to submit everything to the Federation. As far as we are concerned, Chennai has the best facilities and we should not be overlooked when the FIFA team visits the country again.” However, Das was quick to kill any such optimism.

“We are confident of finding the six cities from the proposed eight. The state associations and local governments will soon start work based on the initial FIFA assessment,” he said. “Stadiums in each of these eight cities, which will also host the ISL teams, will benefit from the complete overhaul package IMG-Reliance has planned.”

A key official at IMG-R told The Hindu that the company is expected to invest at least a few hundred crores by September to improve the stadium conditions in each city. It is expected to relay or improve existing turfs, and also construct FIFA-standard dressing and other official rooms.

(with inputs from S.R. Suryanarayan)

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