KOLKATA, Oct 27: World football governing body chief Gianni Infantino today described the FIFA U-17 World Cup as a �resounding success� but refrained from giving any commitment on the country�s bid to host the U-20 World Cup in 2019.
Infantino, who addressed the media after the FIFA Council Meeting here, declared a football continent and said that FIFA will continue to work with India to continue the momentum generated by the successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup.
�The FIFA U-17 World Cup in India is a resounding success with some records broken. India is not only a country but a continent in itself. But I have now found out that India is also not only a football country but is a football continent. The way the (FIFA U-17) World Cup has been perceived by the people of India has been amazing,� said Infantino during a media conference.
�Having seen the U-17 World Cup in India, I can say that it was worth allotting this to India. There was very good competition among teams and attendance was amazing. Not only the U-17 World Cup record, it can even break the all time attendance record in an U-20 World Cup which is 1.3 million spectators in the 2011 Colombia edition.�
Asked whether FIFA will consider India�s bid to host the 2019 U-20 World Cup despite the fact that South Korea, another Asian country, has hosted the tournament earlier this year, Infantino was non-committal.
�This year, there were two World Cups this year. The U-20 World Cup in South Korea was a successful one and then this U-17 World Cup in India has also been a success. We have received request from several countries expressing desire to host the 2019 U-20 World Cup. Now the FIFA administration Will analyse this and present it (a report) to the FIFA Council early next year (for a decision),� he said.
�This is for the 2019 U-20 World Cup. After that we are planning to merge the U-17 and U-20 World Cups into a bigger one, the format will be changed to 48 teams competing and held annually. So, a big country like India can think of hosting a huge event like this alone or co-host with some other smaller countries,� Infantino said.
He said after 2019, there will be only one youth World Cup which will be either U-18 or U-19. The All India Football Federation has submitted India�s bid to host the U-20 World Cup so that the momentum of hosting a successful U-17 World Cup is not lost and India continue to remain engaged at the global stage.
Asked further the successful hosting of the U-17 World should help India in getting the right to host the 2019 U-20 World Cup, Infantino said: �This could be an element but we have to think of other elements also. We Will take a decision on this (2019 FIFA U-19 World Cup) early next year and for the combined youth World Cup after 2019 in October 2018.�
�Of course, we need to cherish the build-up generated by the success of this U-17 World Cup. Taking Indian football forward is, I know, a complex task and it is not easy. I commend the work done by the AIFF. It is not about hosting an event or a show but it is about building a legacy, putting the football culture to the heads on Indians. � PTI