Delhi will host U-17 Cup matches despite post-Diwali pollution: FIFA

Kolkata: FIFA on Thursday categorically said concerns over air quality will not stand in the way of Delhi hosting U-17 World Cup matches but precautions will be taken to address the issues post-Diwali — when the pollution level will be at its highest.

Recently questions have been raised about Delhi’s pollution adversely affecting conduct of the World Cup which starts in October. The Hindu festival of Diwali, that traditionally involves bursting of firecrackers, will be celebrated on October 19, when the tournament moves to its advanced rounds.

Stating that there was “no question of Delhi not hosting the matches”, tournament director Javier Ceppi said it was being analysed how pollution might impact Delhi hosting matches post-Diwali.

“We know that there is an air quality concern post-Diwali in Delhi. But it has nothing to do with Delhi hosting matches. What we will analyse now is post-Diwali what are the issues we need to address,” he said after inspecting the Salt Lake Stadium — one of the venues for the tournament which will be held from October 6 to 28.

Ceppi said the Salt Lake Stadium will be almost ready for the youth showpiece by March-end when the FIFA delegation visits for another round of inspection.

“I am extremely satisfied with the progress of the stadium,” Ceppi told reporters after a recce of the colossal venue, which after renovation will have a capacity of 87,000 spectators.

“We have to realise that the stadium is huge. So works here take time, but the amount of progress that we have seen from three weeks till now has been fantastic,” Ceppi, who touches down in the eastern metropolis almost every month to take stock of the progress, said.

“Everything is on track. Because of the dimensions of the stadia it would not have been possible to complete work by 31st of January. Stadium will be completed well in time for the World Cup. By the next FIFA inspection in March, we would see 90-95 per cent completion,” Ceppi remarked.

State Youth Services and Sports Minister Aroop Biswas had said that the stadium would be ready by January 31.

Asked about the ticket prices, Ceppi said: “The prices will be lesser than a movie ticket. I can say that one would be able to watch a World Cup match for less than Rs 100.”

Ceppi vouched that international friendly matches are not needed to test the turf before the World Cup as other areas are much more of concern than the playing surface.

“You can do training on the turf and that’s how you test the turf. The testing of the venue has much less to do with the ground and more about say how the media tribune works, how the flows of people work,” he said

The U-17 World Cup, the most high-profile football event the country is hosting, will he held across six cities — New Delhi, Kolkata, Guwahati, Margao, Kochi and Navi Mumbai.

As many as 24 teams, including hosts India, will take part in the tournament which will have 52 matches and played before an expected global audience of over 200 million in 200 countries.