Kolkata: Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Indian sports minister thanked the Kolkata crowd for their stupendous support throughout the tournament and also hoped that the tremendous success of the U-17 World Cup will not only remain a huge part of the country’s history but also attract many youths to take up the sport and at the same time motivate the Indian footballers to improve their game and seek a World Cup qualification berth in the future.
“We have got the start. We should not stop here. I hope we get the U-20 World Cup, so that the start gets even bigger momentum. I believe if things go like this, it’s not far when India will play in a World Cup on their own,” said the Athens Olympics silver medalist, before adding “My heartfelt thanks to all the fans of Kolkata. Kolkata has sports lovers. They understand the sport better. They waited for the ceremony to get over even after the match was over. They showed respect to both the teams.”
The professional shooter turned politician, who was the present in the U-17 World Cup final between England and Spain in Kolkata also emphasised on the importance of the youth tournament hosted for the first time in India. Calling it the start of a new beginning for the country he said, “It’s a matter of pride that the U-17 World Cup came to India. It has taken India’s importance at the world level to greater heights. Now the big competitions and sports which were earlier non-existent in India are feeling the need to come to this country.”
The World Cup in India also saw the country smash records and set new heights in the football world itself. A total of 183 goals were scored in the tournament, which is the highest number of goals scored in a single tournament, breaking the previous record set in the 2013 edition of the world Cup in UAE (172 goals).
The 2017 tournament also became the most attended U-17 World Cup ever with an attendance record of 1,347,133, surpassing the 1,230,976 set by China in the inaugural edition in 1985 and Rathore was delighted with the achievement. “The fans response has been fantastic, we broke all records of the most attended World Cup ever,” he said.
Football has usually been a more popular sport in the eastern regions of the country, with Goa being the exception among other states. The sports minister however urged the entire country to seize the opportunity and make the game more popular across the country.
“Football is popular only in a few regions like West Bengal, Goa and NorthEast. It’s a nice opportunity to make the sport popular all over. We must make full use of this.” He said also assuring that the ministry will take the required responsibility in helping the game develop further in the country.
“We will take full responsibility from the Centre by bringing up more infrastructure and prepare elite athletes by looking after their funding and resources. You have seen the overall infrastructure and the modifications that have come in place have been very satisfying. We now need to be prepared for the upcoming competitions,” said Rathore.
But improving infrastructure Alone won’t develop the game and the 2005 Padma Shri awardee asked the players to be more focused and play with a determination to be successful. Drawing an example with the hard workload and passion required to win an Olympic medal, he said, “If you were to win an Olympic medal only because of the money and funding or resources, then the medals list would have the who’s who of the society but that’s not the case.”
“There’s something that is very important in each of us and that is the determination. That’s the biggest strength in all of us,” he concluded.