First One: Cup of Joy for Indian Football - The New Indian Express

First One: Cup of Joy for Indian Football

Published: 06th December 2013 03:06 AM

Last Updated: 06th December 2013 04:22 AM

“To wake up a sleeping giant, you need an alarm clock,” FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s said when he visited the country in March last year. And true to his word, he gave Indian football an incredibly loud wake-up call by awarding them the hosting rights to the 2017 U-17 World Cup.

FIFA President Joseph Sepp Blatter gave Indian football a loud wake-up call | AP
The decision to hand India the hosting rights was taken by the FIFA Executive Committee, which met in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil on Wednesday and Thursday. In India, it was met with much excitement by former players and fans alike.

“This is a huge honour for India and we must make use of this opportunity. If we host this successfully, FIFA will start taking us seriously and entrust us with bigger things in the future,” said former India captain IM Vijayan.

“I’m extremely thankful to the FIFA Executive Committee for keeping their faith on us. Together with all stakeholders we need to host it in the best possible manner and set an example for all to follow. At the same time, we understand the need to be competitive in the tournament,” said AIFF president  Praful Patel.

With the wounds of mismanagement in the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games still afresh, India cannot sit easy till the last moment to upgrade infrastructure and take care of other logistics.

“I am very happy about this development. I always had a feeling from the beginning that we would win the bid. It was only a matter of time before the formal announcement was made. Kudos to the AIFF for all the hard work that they have put in and a big thank you to FIFA,” said India captain Sunil Chhetri.

India goalkeeper Subrata Paul was happy his juniors will get a chance to play in a World Cup. “Our boys will be playing against the best in the world and this will be the first time that we will play in a World Cup at any level. This is the first step towards achieving the dream of playing in the senior World Cup,” he told TNIE.

India, whose submission of final bid documents were initially in doubt due to delay in getting government guarantees, will need six to eight host cities. New Delhi,  Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Guwahati, Margao, Kochi and Bangalore are in the running.

AIFF President Praful Patel feels the real challenge begins now for Indian football | Courtesy: the-aiff.com
This is the first time that India is hosting or participating in a football World Cup at any level. Though the team had qualified for the World Cup in 1950, financial issues meant they were unable compete.

India declared its interest in hosting the tournament nearly two years ago. On a visit to the country, Blatter and then FIFA secretary Jerome Valcke had supported India’s desire to host the event provided it built infrastructure. FIFA wanted guarantees ahead of accepting India’s proposal and the bid was submitted one day before the deadline. The bidding countries were required to submit written guarantees on tax exemptions for broadcasters and sponsors, foreign exchange remittances, security and transport and accommodation for the teams and officials.

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