DELHI WILL not host the FIFA Under-17 World Cup matches after Diwali, as the governing body of world football is worried about how the players will cope with poor air quality in the national capital.
Diwali falls on October 19 and Delhi’s last match will be on October 16 — in the double-header Round of 16 games. The quarterfinal knockout games, which are scheduled to be held on October 21 and 22, have been allotted to Goa, Kochi, Guwahati and Kolkata.
According to the official schedule released Monday, the semifinals will be held in Guwahati and Navi Mumbai, on October 25, and the final at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on October 28.
FIFA’S head of events, Jaime Yarza, confirmed that post-Diwali pollution was the reason why Delhi would not host any of the knockout games. “This (pollution and Diwali) has been taken into account,” he said.
The tournament schedule was finalised following a seven-day visit to India by FIFA officials, who inspected venues at Kolkata, New Delhi, Guwahati, Margao, Kochi and Navi Mumbai. Delhi will host six group games and two Round of 16 matches.
The Indian Express had reported on February 22 that there was a possibility of Delhi missing out on the knockout games due to pollution concerns. FIFA’s medical board had been studying pollution patterns in Delhi during and after Diwali, with the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) seeking data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
“Until Diwali, October is decent, you can play. But after Diwali, it (pollution) shoots to a level that is extremely, extremely unhealthy,” Javier Ceppi, tournament director for the LOC, had said at the time.
In 2016, post-Diwali air pollution in Delhi was the worst in the past five years with a few parts of the capital recording PM-10 concentrations of up to 1,900 micrograms per cubic metre in the first week on November. The acceptable limit is 100 micrograms per cubic metre.
Besides, air quality was placed in the “severe” category for 10 days in a row.
Apart from firecrackers, Delhi’s pollution levels rose due to crop residue burning in Haryana and Punjab, and unfavourable weather conditions, such as low wind speed.