‘Infrastructure ready for FIFA U-17 World Cup’

The FIFA inspection team led by Javier Ceppi (left), U-17 World Cup Director, and Jaime Yarza, FIFA Head of Events, during a tour of the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai. File photo   | Photo Credit: Yogesh Mhatre

The U-17 FIFA World Cup in India will not see any last-minute scramble for infrastructure completion, as had happened in the lead-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, with the Local Organising Committee chief asserting that the six venues will be ready well in time.

The U-17 World Cup, the sport’s third most important tournament globally and the most high-profile football event the country is hosting, will he held across six cities — New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Margao, Kochi and Navi Mumbai — from October 6 to 28.

The prestigious tournament is widely considered to trigger a football ‘revolution’ in the country, with officials describing it as ‘game changer’

Twenty-four teams, including hosts India, will take part in the tournament which will have 52 matches and played before an expected global audience of over 200 million in 200 countries.

Javier Ceppi, the LOC’s tournament director, said that renovation and other major civil work at the six stadia as well the four training grounds each in all the cities will be “almost” ready by the end of April. Only some “ancillary” works will remain after that and can be completed nearer to the tournament. He said all the stadia and training grounds will be world class.

“The FIFA U-17 World Cup is a little over seven months from now but I can say that we have a lot of things in place. The renovation work and all other major civil works at all the six venues will be complete or nearly complete by April end.

So, at this point in time, there is no major red-flagging issue related to infrastructure and this is not a very common thing in India,” Ceppi told PTI in an interview.

“Other major renovation works relating to sewage, electrical fitting, media areas, dressing rooms etc., there will be readiness during next inspection by FIFA team in March end. Work is almost completed in those areas,” Ceppi added.

Ceppi, who was appointed to the job in November 2014, said that initially the progress of renovation work was tardy but picked up steam once it started. India got the right to host the prestigious event in December 2013 and the first visit by FIFA inspection team was in December 2014. The last two inspection visits were in February and October last year when the six venues were finalised.

“It has been a long process in the last two and half years. In India, it takes time to start things but once things start it kind of picks its own pace and in terms of implementation I always say that India is a very good country when it comes to implementation.

“Some venues are more advanced in their preparations. Goa hosted AFC U-16 Championships last year and it’s almost 100 per cent ready. In venues like Delhi, work is picking pace. We are extremely confident by next FIFA inspection in March end, we will be able to show that the facilities are almost 100 per cent complete. There will be some things left to be completed, not major but ancillary work which take a little bit more time — like painting of the stadia in Kolkata and Kochi.

“India is different from many other countries. It’s first time that U-17 World Cup will have six venues with six different languages and different cultures. Dealing with government officials always have certain complications. The complication here is that you have to deal with many more governments.

“Everything you do, you have to do six times, with six different state governments. But the road has been good so far, the best is that the stakeholders, particularly the state governments, have understood their responsibility.”

Asked about the installation of bucket seats at the Nehru Stadium in Kochi and at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, Ceppi said that work at these two venues will not be completed when the FIFA team visits at the end of next month but will be over by the end of April.

“In Kolkata, work (for installation of bucket seats) has already begun. It is a massive work of installing 85,000 bucket seats. We are hoping that it will be over by April 20.

In Kochi, the work (of installing 32,000 bucket seats out of 55,000) is starting very soon, the state government has identified the vendor company to do the job after re—tendering. We are expecting that it will be over in another 75 to 90 days. So, we are targetting end of April or first week of May at the latest.

“This (installing bucket seats) is not a major civil work, it is an ancillary work. It is the same like painting of the stadium. Both Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata and Kochi stadium will have to do painting but that can be completed nearer to tournament. There is no issue in that,” he said.

Under FIFA rules, all the stadia which host global tournaments under its aegis should have bucket seats.

Ceppi said all the stadia and other facilities will be handed over to the LoC 15 days before the start of the tournament, according to the time frame as stipulated in the agreements.

“July 7 is the draw ceremony for the tournament. And, under the agreement, we (the LOC) will take over the stadia and all the facilities two weeks or 15 days before the tournament. That is the deadline and then they become our responsibility,” the Chilean said.

Asked if there will be a FIFA legends exhibition match before the tournament, Ceppi said, “Nothing is confirmed and finalised. Discussions are going on at this point in time. I am not in a position to tell anything until it is confirmed. I will just say it will be extremely good if it happens.”

Ceppi, who was also involved in the preparation of two other editions of the biennial tournament in UAE (2013) and in Chile (in 2015), was happy that the seemingly difficult job of having four training grounds at each of the six venues was achieved without much problem.

“Getting four training grounds in every city was a challenge initially. Fortunately, the stakeholders understood that training sites are as important as actual playing stadia.

In a number of places they had been built from scratch. In the beginning it was difficult but at this point in time we don’t have any problem. All the four cities will have international standard training grounds with floodlights as required by FIFA.

“This (training venues) is where a lot of work is happening currently. The only venue where all the training grounds were ready from the beginning is in Goa because they had it from before. We are using three from the grounds used in Lusofonia Games in 2014 and another training ground used during the from AFC U-16 Championships last year.

“In Delhi, there will be two training grounds inside the JLN stadium complex — the warm-up pitch and another at the lawn bowls field. Work is ongoing in these two training grounds. The third training facility is the Sudev Football club ground in North Delhi. Then we are finalising an agreement for the rugby stadium at Delhi University which was used during 2010 CWG. The ground is in very good shape. They kept it quite nicely.

“In Kolkata, we are very lucky as two of the grounds are inside the Salt Lake stadium complex right at the side of main stadium. The other two are inside SAI Centre which is very nearby. All four training grounds are within 500m radius of the main stadium. Those are almost ready.”

Ceppi said that budget for the tournament was extremely tight but manageable and the fund constraint will not have impact on the standard of the facilities.

“This is a tournament with an extremely tight budget. The budget is nowhere near what people think. But at the same time, I think it is a realistic budget without frills and thrills. This forces us to have a plan in advance. When you have a plan in the last minute, your cost will go all over the place. It has been spent in a smart way and it has been done in a planned way to avoid cost over runs,” he said.

“It (the budget) is not a huge amount as compared to other sporting events in India. But we were sure that with the existing facilities, with a certain amount of renovations we can do it. They (the facilities) would be upto standards. The most amount of fund is spent on training grounds which I see is an opportunity to develop Indian football in future.”

Giving details about the funds, he said, “The Central government has sanctioned Rs 95 crore as central assistance for states to develop infrastructure plus for overlays. 70 per cent of the Rs 95 crore goes to states and 30 per cent for use on overlays. Apart from that, the government has sanctioned Rs 25 crore as contingency fund in case there are any unforeseen issues.

“Then it is the responsibility of each state to get the infrastructure ready. States have also spent and invested, particularly in training sites. Kochi has spent Rs 12.5 crore at the stadium renovation plus Rs 13-14 crore for training sites; Goa invested about Rs 15-20 crore on training sites.

Kolkata invested the most — Rs 120 crore — for training sites and renovation of Salt Lake which has not been renovated since its opening in 1984.

“In Mumbai, it is a private person Dr Vijay Patil who is funding out of his pocket which is something amazing and fantastic. Besides the stadium which is his own, he developed two training centers as per requirements from his own pocket.”

Talking about the other two centres — Guwahati and Delhi — he said, “In Guwahati, state government has invested a certain amount. It hosted South Asian Games in February and now hosting the Himalayan Region Games in April. So they have the facilities and the central government has spent money in building these facilities.

“In Delhi, the central government is funding renovation of JLN stadium and the two training sites here. Sudev is funding renovation of the third training ground from his his own. He is the second private player spending money from his pocket. The rugby ground at Delhi University is a government property.”

Asked about other sources of funds, he said, “There is some subsidy that FIFA provides to the LOC. Apart from that the funds should be raised through sponsorships and ticketing.

From ticketing, we will get some revenue but are not expecting much as we don’t want the price of tickets to be hindrance for anybody to come and watch matches.

“Unlike other leagues our main aim of ticketing is not revenue making. The price of tickets will be much lower than that of a movie ticket and less than other sporting events. We want to make it affordable for all. Also, we want to reward people who come in early. We will give discounts at the beginning and once we get closer to the tournament the prices will be increased.”

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 6:48:19 PM |

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