Kochi: World football governing body FIFA on Friday expressed deep concern over the pace of work here for the Under-17 World Cup which is less than 200 days away.

A team of 21 members of FIFA and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) inspected Kochi, one of the six venues for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, to ascertain its readiness.

Describing the preparations at one of the southernmost venue in the country, FIFA Head of Tournaments, Jaime Yarza explained, "I was here last February and, to be honest, while some work has happened, it's by far not enough, which is a matter of deep concern. The state government must get involved, give us an unrestricted support and get the urgency of the situation, because there are a lot of changes that need to be made to the stadium.

"The works need to be done by May 15 and given the large amount of renovation that must happen, works have to go on full speed. Also, the situation of the stores is quite concerning -- from a security standpoint they cannot be opened during the tournament," he added.

"There are stores with fuel tanks, which is a grave safety and security concern, so their equipment also need to be taken out. Overall, work needs to happen, and state government needs to make them happen fast."

Speaking at the press conference after the inspection, Tournament Director of the LOC, Javier Ceppi said, "Over the past month, there has been a decent amount of work that has been done in Kochi. Unfortunately, it is a well-known fact that almost no work could happen last year while ISL was happening and that has had an impact on the renovation timelines for the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which is lost time that we need to recover fast.

"We are confident that the state government will honour its commitment and that pending infrastructure work will be completed as soon as possible."

Also present at the event were Nodal Officer for Government of Kerala A.P.M. Mohammad Hanish, All India Football Federation (AIFF) Vice President K.M.I. Mather, Kerala State Sports Council President T.P. Dasan, Kerala's Industries, Sports and Youth Affairs Minister A. C. Moideen and LOC Project Director Joy Bhattacharjya.

The delegation will travel to Navi Mumbai and Guwahati next before it concludes its inspection in Kolkata.

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