FIFA to decide Under-17 World Cup host today,India front-runner

Official announcement is expected on Thursday.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | New Delhi | Published: December 5, 2013 4:05 am

As the football world waits in eager anticipation to know their pairings for next year’s World Cup,India will hope FIFA has a present in store for them when it’s executive committee meets in the north-eastern Brazilian city Salvador da Bahia.

The country’s bid to host the 2017 Under-17 World Cup will be tabled before the executive committee on Wednesday,with an official announcement of the host country expected on Thursday. India,encouraged by FIFA to bid for the tournament,will face competition from Ireland,2010 World Cup hosts South Africa and Uzbekistan.

The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has been working on the bid for more than a year and officially submitted it last month. The bid document,which runs into a few hundred pages,contains a number of assurances from the central and state governments apart from the details about the infrastructure,host cities,security. The sports ministry has earmarked Rs 95 crore for the development of stadiums and an additional Rs 25 crore will be the contingency funds. The actual tournament expenses will be borne by the AIFF and FIFA.

On the scale of one to 10,AIFF general secretary Kushal Das rated India’s chances of securing the hosting rights at ‘seven’. One can understand Das’s optimism. During his visit to New Delhi last year,FIFA president Sepp Blatter said the country enjoys his blessings to host the event.

“There is a good possibility. But I am not the only one in FIFA who decides. The decision has to be taken by the executive committee,” Blatter had said.

Later,FIFA’s secretary Jerome Valcke and the Asian Football Confederation also backed India’s bid. Das,though,warned against jumping the gun. “Our bid is comprehensive and FIFA has been quite encouraging. They have realised the vast potential the country has and they really want us to host the tournament. Hopefully,they will find our bid satisfactory,” the former International Cricket Council CFO said.

Govt hurdle

However,winning the bid might not be as easy as it seems. FIFA had rejected India’s first bid in January this year after it did not receive required assurances from the government. And the same issue may return to haunt India again.

Football’s world governing body wanted written guarantees on security,tax exemptions,foreign exchange inflow,transport and accommodation of players,etc. It is learnt that the FIFA also wanted a tax exemption on the earnings of the various international stakeholders connected with the event,including broadcasters and sponsors.

After months of lobbying and persuading,the AIFF finally managed to get the necessary assurances from the government in November. Though it fulfills most of FIFA’s demands,the ‘language’ used by the government remains a point of contention. There are fears that government’s reluctant approach to provide these guarantees may force FIFA to think again.

“The language used in the documents involving issues like tax exemptions and such is not exactly how FIFA wanted. But every country has its own sovereign laws regarding these issues and the government has slightly tweaked to bring it in accordance with our regulations. We have explained it to the FIFA officials and hopefully,they will understand,” Das said.

If India wins the bid,the 24-nation event will be the biggest football tournament that the country will host. UAE hosted the biennial competition this year and Chile will be conducting the tournament in 2015. Shaji Prabhakaran,FIFA’s regional development officer for South and Central Asia,said it could be a game-changer.

“Imagine the kind of boost football will receive if India win the bid. There will be a concentrated effort to develop infrastructure and youth teams. It could be a catalyst to develop football in the country,” Prabhakaran said.

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