By Debayan Mukherjee
Kolkata, July 21 (IANS) Iterating that the infrastructure and other preparations for the U-17 soccer World Cup are on track, a key organising committee official said FIFA, world football’s governing body, may undertake one last inspection of the venues closer to the showpiece event that is slated to kick off on October 6.
“There may be one last inspection much closer to the tournament by officials, but it is not confirmed yet.
“In that sense, it is important for everyone to keep on working with the pace and energy with which they have been doing to make sure all is in place well in advance,” Local Organising Committee (LOC) Tournament Director Javier Ceppi told IANS in an interview.
With less than 80 days remaining for the start of the biggest soccer event in India, Ceppi saluted the rapid progress made in developing the infrastructure.
“What we can do is comparing India with India. When we first started working in November 2014, we never thought we could reach this point, so close to the tournament, where we do not have anything too critical that needs to be constructed at the last minute, where almost all infrastructure is in place and where our main focus is execution and implementation,” Ceppi said.
According to the Chilean, the focus was now on delivery.
“Now is the most important time, because we cannot afford to lose all the good that has been done so far and we can’t lose momentum. The focus on delivery must be complete,” Ceppi said, days after 23 of the 24 participating teams recced the six venues.
Only North Korea did not visit Kochi, where they will play their Group D matches against Niger — debutants in a FIFA tournament — as well as heavyweights Brazil and Spain.
“The visits were overall very good and the teams were pleased with what they saw, knowing that still there are things that will get done closer to the tournament and that the conditions will keep improving before it.
“The teams were positive towards the venues and also about the enthusiasm with which all Indians have embraced the World Cup,” Ceppi said.
Asked about the remaining concerns, he replied: “If you don’t have concerns, then you can’t really be a tournament director.
“You will always want everything perfect, but they say that perfection is the enemy of good and progress, and that is a very important realisation and lesson. You have to play with the cards that are dealt (to you) and make the best out of it, which we feel is what we are trying to achieve.
“The key thing is that we are on the right track and we can see now the delivery of the World Cup much closer.”
The LOC might take over the control of the six stadia from the local organisers well before the scheduled 10 business days prior to the competition, Ceppi informed.
“As per the existing contracts, we have to take over all the venues at least 10 business days before the start of the tournament. However, we have discussed with most of the facility owners and they want us to take over earlier than that so that there is a smoother transition for the tournament.”
Ceppi, who was part of the organising committee when Chile hosted the last U-17 World Cup in 2015, also hoped the stadia would be full during matches, adding ticket sales have been satisfactory.
“We do not know of any other sporting event in India that has sold as many tickets as we have done with more than 80 days to the tournament.
“We hope this trend keeps sustaining as we draw closer to the start and that we can have full stadiums in the World Cup.”
Kolkata, Kochi, Guwahati, New Delhi, Margao and Navi Mumbai will be hosting the World Cup between October 6 and 28. The final will be played at Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at [email protected])
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