Thousands thronged the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan (Salt Lake Stadium) here on Sunday to witness Kolkata hosting its first ever FIFA Under-17 World Cup matches. Fans braved rains to ensure they did not miss the first two of the 10 matches the city will host. Matchgoers began arriving at the venue before its gates were opened, sporting colourful jerseys and painting their faces in the colours of their team.
The atmosphere inside the stadium was electrifying, as fans cheered for every goal and tackle. “This is a dream come true for me and my friends to watch FIFA World Cup matches in my home city. It was also great to see a large number of fans turning up for the matches,” said Soumya Kanta Sarkar, an employee of New Alipore College. He and his friends rented a private bus to come to the stadium with students of the college.
It was announced inside the stadium that around 46,000 fans had turned up — 20,000 less than the total capacity of 66,000 seats, which had been reduced from the original 86,000 for security reasons.
A large number of people left the stadium at the end of the first match between England and Chile, which concluded 4-0 in favour of England. However, others arrived before the second match between Mexico and Iraq. Every time a goal-scoring opportunity arose, fans produced Mexican waves at the stadium. When Mexico scored the equaliser, some waved the Mexican flag to show their support.
“Although the first match was one-sided, considering how strong the England football team was, the second match was an end-to-end contest between the two teams, having a nail-biting finish,” said Kasturi Kar, a student of New Alipore College. Meanwhile, some people complained about the quality of food at stalls inside the stadium. Some on-duty city policemen at gate number 3 also complained of the same.
“The organisation which has been selected by FIFA to provide food to us gave stale food. We will complain about it to the authority concerned,” a police official said.