FIFA today lauded India for delivering a hugely successful Under-17 World Cup, both in terms of quality of football as well as organisation, and said that the country seems capable of hosting bigger global tournaments in the future.
Addressing a press conference, along with All India Football Federation President Praful Patel, FIFA Head of Competitions Jaime Yarza said the infrastructure provided for the first ever FIFA tournament was world-class and all the teams were happy with the organisation.
"The figures speak of themselves, it is going to be the most attended U-17 World Cup. On the field, the matches were of high quality, played in high speed and technically also it was of high class. It has been a fantastic tournament and India has delivered it. It shows that India is a football nation in every sense," Yarza said.
"We want to commend all the six host venues for the successful hosting of the tournament. All the teams are happy and the coaches told us that training sites were of top level. They did not expect such a good quality training pitches. All the teams are satisfied regarding accommodation, food and transportation," he added.
Asked if India can host bigger FIFA tournaments in future with the kind of infrastructure the country now has, the top FIFA official said, "All these stadia are not only of FIFA U- 17 World Cup level but of (senior) FIFA World Cup level. In every aspect, India can host bigger FIFA events in future. India should be proud of having these kind of infrastructure."
Yarza said the FIFA U-17 world Cup has catapulted India to the global stage and it has shown that it's a footballing country.
"This tournament has touched so many hearts and souls like in the case of Mission XI Million Project which is a fantastic one. India is going to be a pioneer breaking new records for this approach. We will keep on working with AIFF, we will try to make this country into a football nation in many ways."
He said the Indian team had also not done badly despite crashing out of the group stage after losing all their three matches.
"The Indian team had also played well, executing what the coach had asked them to. They played at high speed, they were not afraid of facing some very good teams and all the Indians should be proud of their performance. They should continue to develop and get support," the FIFA official said.
Patel, on his part, waxed eloquent on the success of the tournament and said the country should pick up from this U-17 World Cup to move ahead.
"We have heard in the words of FIFA that it has been an astounding success in terms of organisation, infrastructure and conduct of the matches.
"The FIFA President, in his message, has said that India has arrived in world football scene. I am sure India is ready for bigger FIFA events in future," said Patel, who is also the chairman of the Local Organising Committee.
He expressed satisfaction that the entire tournament had gone on without any hiccups and according to the schedule.
"The six venues that hosted the tournament met the exact standards of FIFA. The FIFA is extremely satisfied with the facilities which is outstanding in every sense. This Salt Lake Stadium which is going to host the final match is the best in the country and I think it will also be the one of the good stadiums in the world."
Patel thanked FIFA for allotting this tournament and for its guidance throughout. He also said that this tournament would not have achieved this success but for the hard work by the LOC led by Chilean Javier Ceppi.
Talking about the Indian team performance, he said, "Our boys have shown that they compete at the highest level. They played against very tough teams. But the results did not matter. The fighting spirit they showed and the way they organised themselves and executed what the coach wanted was exemplary."
Asked what will be the biggest legacy of this FIFA U-17 World Cup, he said, "A lot more corporates will come forward and invest in football. The infrastructure will keep on improving from here on. Besides the six venues we have used, there are at least six more venues which could have been used with minor modification."
He also said that India has made the bid for the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup and he will present the country's case when he addresses the FIFA Council to be held here tomorrow.
"This is going to the first FIFA Council Meeting to be held outside Zurich during an Under-17 World Cup. It's a great moment for Indian football. I have been invited to address the FIFA Council as a host country federation chief which itself is a rare honour. I will present my case for allotting the 2019 U-20 World Cup to India during my address today," said Patel who is not a member of the FIFA Council.
LOC Tournament Director Javier Ceppi said that there were challenges initially but those were overcome by the sheer desire to deliver the first FIFA event in the country.
"Like any other World Cup, there were challenges initially. But the amount of energy and the desire to succeed in the first ever FIFA event did the job and we were able to deliver the event. It has been a fantastic journey of three years," he said.
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