GUWAHATI, April 22 - A ground inspection team of the FIFA will visit Guwahati on May 3 in order to supervise the maintenance of all the venues in the city for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 to be held in October.
The team will be headed by Dean Gilasbey, pitch consultant for the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and will supervise the maintenance of all grounds for the upcoming mega event, informed Javier Ceppi, the tournament director of the LOC.
Speaking exclusively to The Assam Tribune, Ceppi spoke on a number of aspects regarding India�s first ever FIFA World Cup.
Regarding the visit, Ceppi said: �It will be an inspection of the grass on the ground because we are going to take over the maintenance of the grounds in June.�
Guwahati will be hosting nine matches including a semifinal and a quarterfinal. The city will be the home for Group E matches besides hosting one round of 16 match. The U-17 World Cup will be held across six cities in the country from October 6 to 28.
Asked about the expectations from Guwahati as a venue, the Chilean said: �The expectations are very much high as we know the passion for the game in the Northeast. All Assamese people should be extremely proud that Guwahati is hosting nine matches which also includes a semifinal of the first football World Cup in the country.�
The other venues are New Delhi, Goa, Kochi, Navi Mumbai and Kolkata. Apart from Guwahati, Navi Mumbai will host the other semifinal. It has also been confirmed that each venue will host at least eight matches. The opening game will be held at Navi Mumbai�s DY Patil Stadium while the final will be held at the Yuva Bharti Krirangan in Kolkata.
Regarding the All India Football Federation�s request to FIFA to allot India�s group matches of the championship to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, Ceppi said: �I repeat what was said by Jaime Yarza, the head of tournaments of FIFA. There has been a request from the AIFF and FIFA is analysing that request.�
With the Indian Super League losing much of it�s following in some of the big cities in the last two editions, the question remains whether India�s first football World Cup would be able to draw crowds into the stands. Ceppi is however optimistic regarding a packed house.
�You cannot make a generalisation regarding metros and smaller cities. It�s about football hubs and of course in the Northeast football is the biggest game and it�s more than a game. Another thing is that the price of the tickets will not be high. There has been a fair amount of coverage as far as the tournament is concerned, so the level of awareness is there. After the draw, once we know which team is going where, the promotional aspect will also increase. There is a fair bit of responsibility on the host cities too.�
Regarding the support from the State government, Ceppi said: �We meet quite regularly with the State government officials, we met the Chief Secretary and we are in direct contact with the Chief Minister�s office as well. I think Guwahati is the 34th largest city in the country from the development point of view and despite that the city would be hosting the semifinal of the first football World Cup in the country. It has all been possible because of the very strong commitment and support that has been given by the State government.�
�As far as the Assam Football Association is concerned, we talk to Hemendra Nath Brahma who is the president and who is the person whom I should be talking to and I have not heard any complaints from him. They are a part of our every meeting and are active participants in the whole process,� said Ceppi.