Wednesday 03 May 2017, 14:19

Puyol: U-17 finals will showcase stars of the future

  • Tickets for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 go on sale on 16 May

  • Carles Puyol will attend the sale launch and a 'Mission XI Million' Festival

  • Puyol lifted the FIFA World Cup™ with Spain but never played at a youth-level World Cup tournament

On 16 May, tickets for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017** **will go on sale. In the build-up to this special event, a very special guest - namely Carles Puyol - will travel to New Delhi and Mumbai to mark the occasion.

Expectations are high in the host nation, where the tournament, which runs from 6 to 28 October, will be spread across six cities. And if any supporters still had any doubts about purchasing tickets, the former Spain defender and FIFA World Cup™ winner was keen to allay them when he spoke to Carles, will this be the first time you’ve visited India? Carles Puyol: Yes, and I’m very excited and curious to discover the country and its people. I’m really drawn to the culture of India, its traditional medicine, its food and, of course, the way football is developing there, which is one of the main reasons behind my visit.

What would you say to convince hesitant fans to buy a ticket? I would tell them that the experience of seeing a match live is completely different from watching it on television. You can feel the intensity and energy when you’re there in person. And at this tournament, you can see the stars of the future. I’m sure that those who attend will remember it and get hooked by the sport.

During your visit, you will have the chance to attend one of the Football Festivals run by the 'Mission XI Million', an ambitious project that aims to introduce millions of Indian children to football. How do you rate this initiative? The values that are passed on through sport accompany you throughout the rest of your life. It’s a wonderful opportunity for children to learn values such as empathy, and how to work really hard as a team towards a common goal. The children will have to deal with things like losing matches and motivating their team-mates, as well as trying to be magnanimous when they win. These are the life lessons that sport gives you.

Curiously, despite your lengthy career, you did not play at any youth World Cups. Did you ever feel envious of team-mates who took part in such competitions at any point? I took up football pretty late and didn’t even consider the possibility of playing at the U-17 World Cup. In fact, the first international tournament I ever played at was with our U-21 side. I’ve never been envious of others; on the contrary, it motivated me to work harder to be able to enjoy those kinds of experiences as well.

How important is it for a player to compete at these events? Very important. Besides offering a great opportunity to compete at the highest levels in these age categories, it prepares you for the professional stage of your career. But for those who aren’t fortunate enough to take part, it’s not the be all and end all. I never played at U-17 level or below, but I went on to have a long professional career that I’m very proud of.