Sunday 15 October 2017, 13:02

FIFA U-17 World Cup: A tipping point for Indian football

A press conference marking the end of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 group stage happened for gathered media on Sunday in Kolkata’s host stadium, and the mood was buoyant but one of a good job, half-way done.

Javier Ceppi, Director of the India 2017 LOC, called attendances at the event so far “fantastic and astonishing,” and Project Director of the India 2017 LOC Joy Bhattacharjya said “this has been a tipping point for Indian football, and purely for the perception of Indian football and hosting this tournament, something has definitely changed.”

The quality of play on the pitch and the electric atmosphere in the stadiums was also a major topic. “It’s obvious from this group stage that teams have come well prepared, and you have some great skillful individuals, especially in attacking positions,” said Branimir Ujevic, FIFA Head of Coaching and Player Development.

“Credit to the Indian people. It has been a great World Cup. The football atmosphere has been really fantastic. On your way to the stadium you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re going to Old Trafford or the Bernabeu or a place like that,” he added.

Success after 36 matches “We have to remember this is the first FIFA World Cup hosted in India, but there has been improvement on each matchday regarding every single aspect of operations. There have been historic crowds, a potential record for a youth tournament. We have crossed the 800,000 spectator mark, already almost double what Chile 2015 had for that complete tournament. The average per match is almost 23,000, and the Indian matches had 49,000 average spectators, which is huge.” - Javier Ceppi, Director of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 LOC

Future impact for India “For the 10- or 12-year-old children at the stadiums seeing a World Cup match for the very first time, I can tell you, it will change their lives. That for us is a very large part of what we’re doing. If we’re here to change Indian football for the better, this is where it starts. There are many things we still have to do, but we have started the process, and that is what’s important.” - Joy Bhattacharjya, Project Director of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 LOC

“There are a lot of people here who love the game, and given the right opportunities they will continue with the sport. They don’t have to be footballers. They can be fans, they can be coaches, they can impact their communities with football. That’s the longer-term vision.” - Javier Ceppi

Indian football moves forward “This was the best possible learning tool for the Indian team. It was obvious they were physically and tactically well-prepared, which reflects well on the head coach. Individually there is a lot of room for improvement, but this is a development tournament, so that is normal. There is one 16-year-old who put his footprint in history because he scored the first goal for India in a FIFA tournament. He is just 16, and he will stay in the history books.” - Branimir Ujevic, FIFA Head of Coaching and Player Development, Head of Technical Study Group at India 2017

“We have qualified for the Asian Cup in 2019, and that is very important. We also now have a pool of 30 or 35 players from the age of 16 and 19 that are very talented.” - Joy Bhattacharjya

Visiting teams happy “Teams have been very happy with the facilities, very happy with the hospitality of the Indian people and very impressed with the passion that Indians have shown for the event. You saw New Caledonia yesterday, playing in front of 45,000 people. They won their first point in a FIFA event and the crowd helped them have a memory that they will have the rest of their lives.” - Javier Ceppi

Massive interest in the final “The craze that the final is generating, it feels like a senior World cup in terms of passion. The demand for tickets has been incredible. There just are no more tickets available. It has been fantastic.” - Javier Ceppi

“At the moment it seems like it’s much easier to get a ticket for the next El Clasico than it is to get a ticket for the final game of this World Cup.” - Branimir Ujevic