• FIFA U-17 World Cup closing press conference was held on Thursday
  • India 2017 set to be the best attended U-17 World Cup
  • Pratel: “We will continue this onward march of Indian football”

With the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 set to conclude on Saturday in Kolkata, media gathered at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium for a closing press conference on Thursday.

Jaime Yarza, Head of FIFA Tournaments, reflected on a “fantastic tournament”, while the Chairman of the India 2017 Local Organising Committee (LOC) and President of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), Praful Patel, spoke of his delight at the way his country has embraced the competition.

Javier Ceppi, Director of the India 2017 LOC, stressed the important role all stakeholders in India played in making the tournament a success.

Jaime Yarza, Head of FIFA Tournaments
“It’s been a fantastic tournament until now, with an overwhelming response of everybody involved. First and foremost, the fans have filled the stadiums in all the matches, showing fair play and respect, cheering on all the teams, and really loving the football they have seen.

“The figures speak for themselves: more than 1.2 million fans attended games at the stadiums. By the final matchday, we’re probably going to break the [attendance] record of all the other U-17 World Cups and we might even break the record for the U-20 World Cup, which is an amazing achievement. It really shows that India is a footballing nation in every sense. The hard work put in place during so many years has received a great response from everybody. It has been a very proud moment for all of us.”

Praful Patel, Chairman of the India 2017 LOC and President of the All India Football Federation (AIFF)
“I am extremely delighted, happy and satisfied that our dream project to bring the first-ever World Cup to India, the first-ever FIFA tournament to India, has been an astounding success in terms of organisation, infrastructure, and the conduct of the games. It shows that India has arrived on the world football scene and we are able to host the finest tournaments. If we can host the FIFA U-17 World Cup, I’m sure India is ready for any of the big games in the future.

“We have invested heavily in our grassroots development projects, and the principle reason why we hosted this edition of the World Cup was to continue to keep our focus on the grassroots development and attract younger kids of all age groups to the game. The younger we catch them, the better for the game in the future. This tournament especially has been absolutely fantastic in attracting the youngsters to the stadiums.

“We have bid for the FIFA U-20 World Cup to be hosted in 2019. I will certainly say that I will use all the goodwill at India’s command to good use for that bid. We will continue this onward march of Indian football.”

Javier Ceppi, Director of the India 2017 LOC
“That culture [here in India] of getting things done at the last minute was not going to work. We got a buy-in from all the stakeholders and that was the single most important thing.

“Like any other World Cup, this tournament has had its challenges, but the amount of goodwill, the amount of energy, and the amount of importance that the different stakeholders have applied to this World Cup has been fantastic. That has been what has allowed us to deliver the event so far.

“The country knew that there was only one ‘first time’ and this was the first time that India has hosted a FIFA tournament. Hopefully, India will get to host many other FIFA tournaments, but there is only one ‘first time’, so that was the sense of drive that we all had.”