New Delhi: The U-17 Fifa World Cup in India will not see any last-minute scramble for infrastructure completion, as had happened in the lead-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, with the Local Organising Committee chief asserting that the six venues will be ready well in time.
The U-17 World Cup, the sport's third most important tournament globally and the most high-profile football event the country is hosting, will he held across six cities -- New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Margao, Kochi and Navi Mumbai --from 6 to 28 October.
The prestigious tournament is widely considered to trigger a football 'revolution' in the country, with officials describing it as 'game changer'.
Twenty-four teams, including hosts India, will take part in the tournament which will have 52 matches and played before an expected global audience of over 200 million in 200 countries.
Javier Ceppi, the LOC's tournament director, said that renovation and other major civil work at the six stadia as well the four training grounds each in all the cities will be "almost" ready by the end of April. Only some "ancillary" works will remain after that and can be completed nearer to the tournament. He said all the stadia and training grounds will be world class.
"The Fifa U-17 World Cup is a little over seven months from now but I can say that we have a lot of things in place. The renovation work and all other major civil works at all the six venues will be complete or nearly complete by April end. So, at this point in time, there is no major red-flagging issue related to infrastructure and this is not a very common thing in India," Ceppi told PTI in an interview.
"Other major renovation works relating to sewage, electrical fitting, media areas, dressing rooms etc., there will be readiness during next inspection by Fifa team in March end. Work is almost completed in those areas," Ceppi added.
Ceppi, who was appointed to the job in November 2014, said that initially the progress of renovation work was tardy but picked up steam once it started. India got the right to host the prestigious event in December 2013 and the first visit by Fifa inspection team was in December 2014. The last two inspection visits were in February and October last year when the six venues were finalised.
"It has been a long process in the last two and half years. In India, it takes time to start things but once things start it kind of picks its own pace and in terms of implementation I always say that India is a very good country when it comes to implementation.
"Some venues are more advanced in their preparations. Goa hosted AFC U-16 Championships last year and it's almost 100 per cent ready. In venues like Delhi, work is picking pace. We are extremely confident by next Fifa inspection in March end, we will be able to show that the facilities are almost 100 per cent complete. There will be some things left to be completed, not major but ancillary work which take a little bit more time -- like painting of the stadia in Kolkata and Kochi.
"India is different from many other countries. It's first time that U-17 World Cup will have six venues with six different languages and different cultures. Dealing with government officials always have certain complications. The complication here is that you have to deal with many more governments.
"Everything you do, you have to do six times, with six different state governments. But the road has been good so far, the best is that the stakeholders, particularly the state governments, have understood their responsibility."
Asked about the installation of bucket seats at the Nehru Stadium in Kochi and at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, Ceppi said that work at these two venues will not be completed when the Fifa team visits at the end of next month but will be over by the end of April.
"In Kolkata, work (for installation of bucket seats) has already begun. It is a massive work of installing 85,000 bucket seats. We are hoping that it will be over by 20 April. In Kochi, the work (of installing 32,000 bucket seats out of 55,000) is starting very soon, the state government has identified the vendor company to do the job after re-tendering. We are expecting that it will be over in another 75 to 90 days. So, we are targeting end of April or first week of May at the latest.
"This (installing bucket seats) is not a major civil work, it is an ancillary work. It is the same like painting of the stadium. Both Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata and Kochi stadium will have to do painting but that can be completed nearer to tournament. There is no issue in that," he said.
Under Fifa rules, all the stadia which host global tournaments under its aegis should have bucket seats.
Ceppi said all the stadia and other facilities will be handed over to the LoC 15 days before the start of the tournament, according to the time frame as stipulated in the agreements.
"7 July is the draw ceremony for the tournament. And, under the agreement, we (the LOC) will take over the stadia and all the facilities two weeks or 15 days before the tournament. That is the deadline and then they become our responsibility," the Chilean said.
Asked if there will be a Fifa legends exhibition match before the tournament, Ceppi said, "Nothing is confirmed and finalised. Discussions are going on at this point in time. I am not in a position to tell anything until it is confirmed. I will just say it will be extremely good if it happens."
Ceppi, who was also involved in the preparation of two other editions of the biennial tournament in UAE (2013) and in Chile (in 2015), was happy that the seemingly difficult job of having four training grounds at each of the six venues was achieved without much problem.
"Getting four training grounds in every city was a challenge initially. Fortunately, the stakeholders understood that training sites are as important as actual playing stadia. In a number of places they had been built from scratch. In the beginning it was difficult but at this point in time we don't have any problem. All the six cities will have four international standard training grounds with floodlights as required by Fifa.
"This (training venues) is where a lot of work is happening currently. The only venue where all the training grounds were ready from the beginning is in Goa because they had it from before. We are using three from the grounds used in Lusofonia Games in 2014 and another training ground used during the AFC U-16 Championships last year.
"In Delhi, there will be two training grounds inside the JLN stadium complex -- the warm-up pitch and another at the lawn bowls field. Work is going on in these two training grounds. The third training facility is the Sudev Football club ground in North Delhi. Then we are finalising an agreement for the rugby stadium at Delhi University which was used during 2010 CWG. The ground is in very good shape. They kept it quite nicely.
"In Kolkata, we are very lucky as two of the grounds are inside the Salt Lake stadium complex right at the side of main stadium. The other two are inside SAI Centre which is very nearby. All four training grounds are within 500m radius of the main stadium. Those are almost ready."
Bank of Baroda has become the first national sponsor out of the six slots and Ceppi said the association of another major Indian company will be announced very soon. He also said that another Public sector Undertaking is extremely keen to be on board.
Ceppi also said that his team and other stakeholders have not lagged behind in terms of operational planning to deliver a flawless tournament.
"We have done a lot of planning regarding the operational aspects of the tournament also. We are waiting for infrastructure to complete so that we can fine-tune all the operational aspects. We will then put these planning into actual ground reality. We have started drawing up security plans with the local police at all the venues and with different stakeholders.
"Here it is the same, the main challenge is that everything you do centrally, you have to do at the state level also regrading these operational issues. Instead of having one main agreement for everything, it means six agreements for everybody. That takes time, that takes a lot of convincing to do, that takes a lot of meetings and a lot of travel. But we are getting there."
Regarding hotels he said there was no issue. Among all the six venues, the Assam capital has the least number of five-star hotels but he said there was no issue there also.
"At this point in time, we are satisfied with the amount of rooms available at the hotels. There are four or five five-star hotels now in Guwahati also. In all other five venues, the options are quite plenty. Delhi has a number of five-star hotels, same is in case of Mumbai, Goa, Kochi and Kolkata."
He said his team was waiting for the draw to happen to begin major promotional and marketing initiatives.
"We are waiting for the draw to happen. Once the draw happens you will know which team goes to which venues. That is when we can start our promotional activities.
"When you know which team goes to which city you can start doing a lot of promotional activities, promoting these teams to the community. We are planning quite a localised approach as well. It will be something like the local people get all these in their local language through local and regional channels and newspapers and radio stations.
"Sony is broadcasting every match of the tournament. Internationally it will go to 200 countries. It will be the most widely broadcast sporting event India has hosted. We are hoping that the event will break international broadcast and domestic broadcast records of all youth tournaments. Hopefully, it will also be the most watched event across all sports in India.
"India is such a huge country and needs a lot of money for marketing and promotional activities. We need to be extremely smart and cautious about it. So from July onwards, there will be promotional activities. A large responsibility goes to the host cities. This is an opportunity to brand themselves towards their population and towards the international visitors. They have taken an active approach in branding and promoting."
Asked which city will host the final of the tournament, Ceppi said it will be worked out later on but indicated it is likely to go to cities where football is more popular.
"Schedule of the tournament will be announced by Fifa in consultation with the LOC. The quarterfinals, semifinals and final are the most important matches. We will take a lot of things into account. We told the state governments that the venue of marquee matches will be based on two factors --readiness of the facility and willingness.
"We watched every single match at different venues in the country, be it I-League or Indian Super League and we know exactly the attendance at different places. Not only willingness, we know at certain places there are a lot of passion of the fans. Those places where football is popular and is growing, those places should be rewarded.
"We are aware of situation in Delhi and we are also aware there is another complication, that is the pollution. Diwali this year is on 19 October (when the tournament will be towards its business end). So that is another thing we have to take into account while deciding schedule."
"There will be no opening ceremony. The first day will have four matches at two venues," Ceppi said, adding that the city where the operational headquarters will be located will also be decided after the draw ceremony on 7 July.
Updated Date: Feb 17, 2017 18:38 PM