GUWAHATI, Oct 24 - At a time when the craze for football seems to be at its peak with the ongoing Indian Super League (ISL), there is even more good news for the soccer lovers of the region as a strong FIFA delegation today approved Guwahati as a confirmed venue for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 to be hosted in India.
The FIFA delegation along with members of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) confirmed the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium at Sarusajai here as one of the venues for the next year�s FIFA U-17 World Cup.
The team visited the site and had a comprehensive look at the stadium and the training facilities.
Later, interacting with the media during the post-inspection press meet, LOC Tournament Director Javier Ceppi said: �To be very honest, there was a point of time when we were here and we really had doubts if we could make it as a venue. Then the new Chief Minister came in who was earlier the Sports Minister of India and he has been a guiding force and now, I can say that Guwahati has been ratified as a venue for the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.�
Guwahati became the fifth Indian city to be ratified as a venue for the next year�s Under-17 World Cup after the FIFA inspection team gave its thumbs up to the venue�s preparedness and facilities.
�From what I am being told, the enthusiasm for the sport here in this part of the country is unmatched. Football is almost like a religion here which is fantastic. The ratification is not only a victory for the state of Assam but the whole Northeast. The stadium needs refurbishment and it has already started,� said Marion Mayer-Vorfelder, Event Manager, FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017.
Delegates from the football�s governing body were satisfied with the conditions in Guwahati, both on the pitch as well as in the training facilities of Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium training ground, Nehru Stadium, LNIPE Ground and SAI Regional Centre.
�The stadium as per the regulations needs to be an all-seater stadium so seats will come up after the ISL is completed. There are some other refurbishments required at the tribunes, for the media centre, a new VIP area as well and also some access on the roads. As far as training grounds are concerned, there is one here right next to the stadium. The Nehru Stadium that went through sizeable renovations during the South Asian Games still needs to be upgraded a little bit. The SAI Regional Centre ground has already started the refurbishments,� said Ceppi.
�We have already spoken to the State Government and to get things done the deadline is January 31. From what we have seen, I have seen miracles happening in Guwahati for the South Asian Games. A stadium came up in 60 days which is something mind-blowing. We are very much confident about the capacity of the State,� Ceppi added.
Earlier, Kochi, Navi Mumbai, Goa and New Delhi had got the FIFA nod as venues for the prestigious event.
Regarding whether there are any security concerns, Ceppi said: �We are aware of certain complications. I have been here in Guwahati on 32 occasions and I never felt threatened. I have always felt welcomed. The Northeast people and particularly, the Assamese people are very welcoming.�
Among others present during the occasion were Joy Bhattacharjya, Project Director, LOC; Ajay Tewari, Sports Commissioner, Government of Assam and Hemendra Nath Brahma, president, Assam Football Association.
The 23-member delegation will travel to Kolkata tomorrow to visit the last venue on its inspection trip and assess the situation in the capital of West Bengal.