Kolkata: World football governing body chief Gianni Infantino on Friday described the FIFA U-17 World Cup as a "resounding success" but refrained from giving any commitment on the country's bid to host the U-20 World Cup in 2019.
Infantino, who addressed the media after the FIFA Council Meeting said that FIFA will continue to work with India to continue the momentum generated by the successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup.
"The FIFA U-17 World Cup in India is a resounding success with some records broken. India is not only a country but a continent in itself. But I have now found out that India is also not only a football country but is a football continent. The way the (FIFA U-17) World Cup has been perceived by the people of India has been amazing," said Infantino during a media conference.
"Having seen the U-17 World Cup in India, I can say that it was worth allotting this to India. There was very good competition among teams and attendance was amazing. Not only the U-17 World Cup record, it can even break the all-time attendance record in an U-20 World Cup which is 1.3 million spectators in the 2011 Colombia edition."
Asked whether FIFA will consider India's bid to host the 2019 U-20 World Cup despite the fact that South Korea, another Asian country, has hosted the tournament earlier this year, Infantino was non-committal.
"This year, there were two World Cups this year. The U-20 World Cup in South Korea was a successful one and then this U-17 World Cup in India has also been a success. We have received requests from several countries expressing a desire to host the 2019 U-20 World Cup. Now the FIFA administration will analyse this and present it (a report) to the FIFA Council early next year (for a decision)," he said.
"This is for the 2019 U-20 World Cup. After that we are planning to merge the U-17 and U-20 World Cups into a bigger one, the format will be changed to 48 teams competing and held annually. So, a big country like India can think of hosting a huge event like this alone or co-host with some other smaller countries," Infantino said.
He said after 2019, there will be only one youth World Cup which will be either U-18 or U-19.
The All India Football Federation has submitted India's bid to host the U-20 World Cup so that the momentum of hosting a successful U-17 World Cup is not lost and India continue to remain engaged at the global stage.
Asked further the successful hosting of the U-17 World should help India in getting the right to host the 2019 U-20 World Cup, Infantino said:"This could be an element but we have to think of other elements also. We Will take a decision on this (2019 FIFA U-19 World Cup) early next year and for the combined youth World Cup after 2019 in October 2018."
"Of course, we need to cherish the build-up generated by the success of this U-17 World Cup. Taking Indian football forward is, I know, a complex task and it is not easy. I commend the work done by the AIFF. It is not about hosting an event or a show but it is about building a legacy, putting the football culture to the heads on Indians.
"For example, there was a shift of the venue of the semi-final from Guwahati to Kolkata and the ticketing system broke because of the hundreds of thousands of making requests for tickets. This is nothing but true passion for football," he said when asked whether he will coin a new word from the one he had said recently that India is a "passionate giant".
Infantino, however, made it clear that the Indian team will need to work harder as there was a gap between the home team players and those of other countries.
"I watched the matches played by India on television. They played well and fought well though they lost all their three matches. The boys fought incredibly well and there were some surprises. They need to work hard from hereon and improve upon (their previous performances)," he concluded.
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Updated Date: Oct 27, 2017 20:46:10 IST