Kolkata: FIFA chief Gianni Infantino on Friday described the U-17 World Cup in India as a, “resounding success which has broken all kinds of records” at a media interaction in Kolkata.
He said, “When the U-17 World Cup was allotted to India I wasn’t a part of FIFA. But now I can say that it’s all set to surpass the all-time attendance record for the U-17 World Cup achieved in China in 1985 and I feel India can also beat the record of attendance of U-20 World Cup achieved in Colombia. India is not a country but a continent.”
Infantino also hinted at the fact that India might just get to host the U-20 World Cup as well after the huge success of the U-17 tournament, when he said,
“it will certainly be an element when the hosts for the next U-20 World Cup (to be held in 2019) would be announced early in 2018.”
The Swiss-Italian further added that there were, “interests from many countries to host the U-20 World Cup in 2019. All interests will be analysed by the FIFA administration and they would present it to the Council for a decision.”
Infantino also felt that the country should “cherish what has been build up by the AIFF and the legacy which this U-17 World Cup will leave behind.”
AIFF President Praful Patel was also present at the occasion and Infantino said, “I need to thank Mr. Praful Patel (President, AIFF) and AIFF for welcoming us in a warm way and the hospitality has been fantastic. I am extremely happy that we had the FIFA Executive Council meeting earlier today and look forward to the final of a very successful U-17 World Cup.”
Patel welcomed the FIFA boss including his council, “for their first ever meeting in India.”
He said, “I was invited to address the FIFA Council and on behalf of the entire country, I made a request to the Council that India cannot rest on the laurels of hosting a FIFA World Cup. We need to build on the momentum and we need to have a major tournament which will keep aspirations and interests of everyone alive…We have officially bid to host the FIFA U-20 World Cup in India.”
Patel also added, “The FIFA President on his arrival in India said that ‘India has arrived as Footballing Nation’ and that speaks volumes. The U-17 World Cup in India has been the most successful FIFA U-17 World Cup ever and I need to thank FIFA for awarding it to us.”
“I also need to express my gratitude to the players, the fans, the stakeholders for their overwhelming support..The organisation of the tournament has been a moment of great satisfaction and has pointed out that young India wants good football,” he added.
Patel however felt that the biggest challenge of football in India is the country’s demographics. He said, “We don’t have a pan-India footprint and despite Football being popular, it’s not played all over. The game needs to be played across the length and breadth.”
He added further, “We are also in the process of building a Centre of Excellence and we would request for support from your side in whatever way possible.”