Fifa’s inspection team sounded fairly satisfied over the progress at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, one of the venues for the U-17 World Cup, but urged authorities to speed up work on core areas like competition and training sites.
With less than 200 days to go for the mega-event, an eight-member team led by Fifa’s head of events Jaime Yarza, kicked off an inspection of the six chosen centres in the country, starting with the capital.
“We are satisfied, we have seen things move, we have seen things improve, but Delhi is a very important city in the world and the stadium should represent the city in the best way, and that means the stadium has to look really top notch.”
Asked about the problem areas, Yarza said there was no major cause for concern at this stage.”The competition areas are partially done only and also the training sites, which are important for the players. They (organisers) have a very good plan and they are working according to the plan. So, for me, these two are some of the key areas.
“A lot of work has been done, a lot of work will be done in the future. They just need to speed up a little bit more, but we are convinced everything is going to be alright. There is no major or big concern for us at this stage,” Yarza, who was hoping for work on core infrastructure to be finished by now, said.
Fifa members along with LOC delegation visited Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to assess the progress of preparations for the tournament.
Jaime added, “Fifa is very satisfied with the assistance of the government and the sports minister (Vijay Goel). But at the same time it’s important to know that we don’t have that much time to go. There is a lot of improvement needed, lot of work still to be done here in Delhi, and I encourage authorities to keep working with the same enthusiasm but with stronger pace so that they can really deliver what is required by Fifa in that time.”
Tournament director Javier Ceppi: “The support that we have got from the government, ministry, Sports of Authority of India has been fantastic. We worked very hard to make sure that the facilities are being renovated as per our requirement.
“The stadium was beautifully built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and we need to bring back that splendour.”
Ceppi reiterated that work should be complete by the end of April. The capacity of the stadium, besides logistical considerations, will be the key when it comes to selecting venue for final of the tournament, Yarza said.
“We prefer one of the bigger stadiums but there are logistical considerations like where the main office is based during the tournament.
“The selection of final venue depends on various factors — the community and the passion for football, so choosing a venue for hosting the final of a tournament like the U17 World Cup is not just based on our requirements. It’s a combination of various factors that go together including fans, authorities and obviously the capacity of the stadium.”
Ceppi added that “willingness and readiness” will be taken into account when venues will be decided for the bigger matches.
Expanding on the training sites for the tournament in the capital, he added, “We’re appreciative of Delhi University for agreeing to be our training site. We’re also very happy to confirm that Sudeva FC will be the fourth training ground in Delhi. There is still some work that is happening but we are confident that with the support of Sports Authority of India, it will be able to be completed very shortly.”
Asked about its next inspection, “In principle, unless there is an emergency, which we don’t foresee, we will do the next inspection around the draw which is in July. Just before the draw we will be visiting the facilities to make sure that everything is in place.
“Because as you know during the draw all the teams will come to India and they will visit the venues. So just before the draw we would like to see again that everything has been done properly so that we can answer the questions the teams might have and make sure when the teams go and see the venues they have the best impression.”
Yarza said they will not have any back-up venue and in the event of a “catastrophe”, “which we don’t foresee”, they will be hosting the tournament in five venues.
Asked about the pollution factor in the capital around Diwali, Yarza said they are aware of it and doctors from Fifa, India and other parts of the world will give “conclusions and deliberations” on it.
The delegation will continue its inspection visit to the five remaining host cities with Goa as the next stop, followed by Kochi, Navi Mumbai, Guwahati and Kolkata.