The Italian reflected on India’s hosting of the FIFA U-17 World and the major decisions taken at the FIFA Council meeting.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino, AIFF President Praful Patel and FIFA Chief Communications Officer Fabrice Jouhaud spoke to the press after their FIFA Council meeting in Kolkata earlier today. Infantino started off by saying, “I am very happy to be Kolkata today for the FIFA Council meeting. I would like to thank Mr. Praful Patel for warmly welcoming us to India. The FIFA U-17 World Cup has been a resounding success with records already being broken. India is a continent, not only a country. India has now become a football continent!”
Patel spoke after him and started off by saying: “I thank FIFA for awarding us the first ever FIFA Council meeting in India. The world must focus on India. We represent 1/6h of the world’s population and are a continent as he said. I also thank FIFA for giving us the first ever FIFA tournament. It’s the renaissance of Indian Football. Mr. Infantino told me that he thinks India has arrived as a footballing continent. This has been the most successful U-17 World Cup tournament in history.”
Reasserting India’s desire to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2019 Patel said, “We cannot stop with this U-17 World Cup and the show must go on for us! I formally request the President that India is looking forward to hosting the U-20 World Cup in 2019. We need to have another major tournament which will keep the interest of every section alive. This has been a great learning experience for us. We have delivered on giving proper infrastructure which was a major issue in all these years. I think we have a FIFA President who understands everything regarding football.”
This edition of the U-17 World cup is making a buzz as the record of highest total attendance is set to be broken within the 2 matches on 28th October, adding to it, the FIFA event will also break the average attendance feat set by the Cricket World Cup 2011, if the Salt Lake stadium goes even half filled in the rest two matches, which is an obvious thing.
The AIFF chief also used the occasion to seek FIFA’s help in the setting up of the planned Nation Centre of Excellence for Indian football. To this Infantino added, “Forget Cricket, Football is the future of India. I’m joking, but Football is the future for India.”
Quizzed on the destination of the next U-20 World Cup Infantino said, “This year we handed to World Cups to Asia. The U-20 To South Korea and the U-17 to India. We have received many bids from other countries for the U-20 World Cup. After 2019, we may change the complete format for the FIFA competitions.” Pressed on whether India’s successful hosting of the U-17 World Cup will give them the edge in the 2019 U-20 process, the FIFA boss remained tight-lipped and said a decision will be taken early next year.
48,184 fans cheering for India against Colombia in FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017
He was later asked about why his perception of Indian football had changed in response to which he commended the hosting of the tournament. “I am very happy with how the tournament was organized. India has shown great passion which is exemplified by the fact that the FIFA Ticket website broke down because so many people wanted to see the semi-final in Kolkata. The passion is amazing and shows the growth of Indian football.”
He further continued, “India is a country which loves sports in general. There is a passion and a will as well from the Indians themselves. It is about bringing children from schools to play football. I think then we will see the potential there is in India and if we have to take our task in FIFA seriously in developing football, then we have to help football grow sustainably in India because that will help the whole world.”
Speaking on the challenge of bringing about pan-India growth in football Patel added, “Everyone is trying to increase the demographic of football in India. There are some parts which are crazy about football like West Bengal or the Northeast but there are places where there isn’t much. One of the great legacies this World Cup will leave behind is our ability to have the greater infrastructure. We would like to do these tournaments on an equal footing across the country.
The decisions taken by the FIFA council are here to look out for – FIFA Council approves key organisational elements of 2018 FIFA World Cup
Infantino was asked about the reasons for letting India host the U-17 World Cup and whether he had watched any of India’s matches. “Yes I saw the matches on TV. There is a gap in the game but the young kids played really well despite not winning. They came very close to giving a couple surprises. When the decision was taken to host the World Cup here, I wasn’t here. But now that I’m in FIFA, I think the World Cup was a success for the public, a success for the teams. We expect the all-time attendance record to be broken tomorrow. India could even beat the record of the U-20 World Cup tomorrow considering how many fans are coming in tomorrow.”