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FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 tour diary: Kochi's yellow fever, Mali's patriotic training sessions and other tidbits

With the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 behind us, here's a look at some of the juiciest tidbits from the left flank to the right, and the stands too.

Do Germans play better in Kochi?

During the post-match press conference after their 3-1 win over Guinea, Germany coach Christian Wuck seemed visibly at ease. It could have been so because his side had left their 4-0 defeat to Iran behind. Or it could have been the weather conditions, which Wuck said were "better than those in Goa".

However, on a question about crowd support in Kochi, Wuck seemed to get a little entangled in his own answer. "The stadium here is bigger than in Goa," he started before adding: "The pitch is a little bit... a little bit different than in Goa. My players... ummm... play better here than in Goa. I can't explain why or what it is." He eventually found an explanation for this occurrence, saying: "I think the pitch here in Kochi is more like in Europe."

Maybe that's the reason behind Germany crashing out of the tournament. Their match against Brazil, which ended their stay in the tournament, was held at Kolkata after all.

Singing practice

Mali players stand in attention for the national anthem along with members of the coaching staff before a training session in Navi Mumbai. Image: Amit Kamath

Mali players stand in attention for the national anthem along with members of the coaching staff before a training session in Navi Mumbai. Image: Amit Kamath

The scene would have struck anyone as strange. As many as 32 people stood in a straight line, shoulder to shoulder, some with their right hands on their hearts, and sang in unison at a training ground in Navi Mumbai. The Mali U-17 football team's training session was just about to start ahead of their semi-final against Spain in Navi Mumbai.

Most teams like to simulate each situation which they anticipate could happen during a match, be it defending with numbers or shooting under pressure. However, Mali have taken this to the level by starting each training session by making their boys sing the national anthem. Not just the boys, the training staff too stand in a straight line and join in.

It is the usual protocol for each FIFA World Cup match to begin with the national anthem of both teams being recited at the stadium. On being asked the reason behind their players singing the national anthem at training sessions, the Mali media manager said it was to remind the players each time that they were playing for the national flag.

A translator for the translator

“Do you think there has been a return of the No 9 (position) in this tournament?”

The question posed by a journalist to Mali coach Jonas Komla after his side’s defeat to Spain in the semi-final at DY Patil Stadium sounded perfectly legit, but there was only one problem: The Team Liaison Officer (TLO), who was translating the Mali coach’s answers from French to English, did not know what the No 9 position even was, leading the journalist to take another dig at simplifying the question.

“It was a False 9 a few years back. Do you think there has been a resurgence of the No 9 position?”

This again, drew a blank from the TLO.

“There was a false forward employed by Spain earlier as we saw in the 2010 World Cup. Now we see that there is a clear forward now. No 9… like… Ronaldo… Do you see there’s a clear trend now?” stuttered the journalist even as he struggled to simplify what to him must have been pretty simple in the first place.

With the TLO still unable to comprehend the question, the FIFA co-ordinator stepped in to ask other journalists for questions. Probably wanting to hear the answer to the No 9 question, a second journalist tried his hand at simplifying the question.

“I think he means to say they have a focal point in attack. So this one player who gets the goals for them gets the most goals for them, so he is the focal point of their attack. So, when he means 'False 9' he also means he is part of the midfield. The player in the centre drops into the midfield…”

The elaborate explanation forced the FIFA co-ordinator to interject: “Is there a question?” before more journalists jumped into the melee to try and make sense of the question.

Eventually, all concerned parties agreed to leave the question unanswered.

But the query had left a deep scar on the poor TLO, who stuttered on the following questions and eventually completely blanked out.

The trend of the No 9 may or may not be on its way back, but FIFA may certainly need to start the trend of training their translators in the nuances of the game.

Kerala's yellow fever

When Germany's Dennis Jastrzembski brought down Guinea's Ismael Traore during a group stage match, he was promptly shown a yellow card. The Kochi crowd erupted in response, which led one journalist to quip loudly that Kerala cheers for anything yellow, be it Brazil, Kerala Blasters or a yellow card.

Mali's celebrities in the stands

With their side being shown the door by Spain in the semi-final, a handful of Mali fans who had come to the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai tried to make a quick getaway out of the venue. But, what they hadn't anticipated was the rest of the fans in the stadium treating them like some sort of celebrities. Soon, there was a throng of people surrounding the Mali fans, who were being beseeched for selfies as if they were playing for the Mali national team.


Updated Date: Oct 30, 2017 21:05 PM

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