In a small,yet significant,step towards India’s dream of being counted among football’s elite,the country was chosen as the host of the 2017 under-17 World Cup on Thursday. The decision was taken by FIFA’s executive committee,which met in the north-eastern Brazilian city of Bahia. This is the first time India have been awarded a FIFA tournament and,by the virtue of being the hosts,the country will also make it’s first appearance at a major global football competition. The dates of the tournament are yet to be finalised. India has hosted Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Youth Championships (Under-20) in 2006 and the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008 but never any FIFA tournament.
India fended off competitive bids from 2010 World Cup host South Africa,Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Republic of Ireland too had expressed interest in hosting the biennial competition but did not make an official bid. The 24-team tournament will be held in six of the eight prospective venues,which will be decided by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) in consultation with FIFA. The shortlisted venues are: New Delhi,Goa,Bangalore,Pune,Mumbai,Kolkata,Kochi and Guwahati.
The announcement was seen as a mere formality,after FIFA president Sepp Blatter and secretary Jerome Valcke publicly backed AIFF’s bid earlier this year. India also enjoyed the backing of its continental body,the AFC.
AIFF president Praful Patel said the hard work begins now. Hosting a tournament of such stature will help galvanise the face of Indian Football among the masses. Football is popular in certain pockets. With the U-17 WC,I strongly believe the popularity will swell.