Gulati: Chile has been a terrific host

The closing press conference of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 was held in Santiago on Friday 6 November, two days before the final of the tournament between Mali and Nigeria. Sunil Gulati, Chairman of the Organising Committee of the tournament, Colin Smith, FIFA Director of Competitions and Cristian Varela, Chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the tournament, discussed the positive impact and lasting legacy that the event will have on the regions involved. It was fitting that a competition that involved players in their mid-to-late-teens was described as a family event, welcoming parents and children back to the stadiums, in some regions that had never hosted a global finals before.

Below are the principal extracts from the press conference.

Sunil Gulati In every way, Chile has been a terrific host. We’ve had a sensational tournament with 24 teams and incredibly successful semi-finals. Over 9,000 people on average in attendance at each of the games is a sharp improvement on 2013. One of the things at a tournament such as this is that it’s hard to predict who are going to be the stars of the future. Who’s going to be the next James Rodriguez or Kaka? We all have some predictions but we’ll keep those private for now and look forward to a great final on Sunday.

For the final, I think we’ll have an open and entertaining game. Both teams have shown that they want to attack and have done very well in this tournament. I expect an open and exciting game because young players are so exuberant about the sport. CAF will be the winner either way, but I think the sport will be the winner because we’ll have a very entertaining game on Sunday.

Colin Smith The U-17 World Cup is a tournament, perhaps more than any other tournament which brings together two cornerstones of what FIFA is all about, which is top class competitions and development, which is the legacy which we have been talking about. 2000 kids across the seven host cities have taken part in grassroots activities and seminars. Eighty Chilean grassroots coaches have attended training too. The idea is that they take these skills back to their communities and help structure youth programmes throughout those communities.

On top of that, 24 South American youth coaches have been receiving specialist training. With theory-based interpretation, seeing them analysing matches. This is to equip the coaches to be able to return structured development programmes in their communities. These development programmes and that legacy are a key part of what FIFA can deliver besides the tournament itself.

We’ve seen this competition be a very good tournament for Fair Play. Ultimately it’s been played in a great spirit. If you take the match between Nigeria and Mexico, a semi-final between two teams who are very competitive, there was not one single card and the game flowed. It’s a combination between our work with the referees and the Fair Play programmes that run throughout our competitions.

It’s impossible for FIFA to come in and deliver a tournament of this scale and size if we don’t have the co-operation of the LOC. I’d like to thank Cristian and his team for all the years of work and preparation that made us able to deliver such a tournament. I’d also like to thank the volunteers, who give up their valuable time, our commercial affiliates, the media, the broadcasters and the spectators because certainly without them it would be very different.

Cristian Varela We are very happy as we have overcome our expectations regarding the attendance. More than 450,000 people attending the stadiums is a figure that is truly significant. We have achieved our dream of taking all these games to the different regions. I am very happy to have an event of this nature given to people who would never have dreamed of having players from around the world playing in their local stadiums. It was our objective for people who do not usually have the opportunities to experience a spectacle of this nature to do so. Clearly whichever way you look at it this has been a success.

Nearly 200 million people have watched this championship. 170 different countries have shared in the joy of what we’ve been going through in venues that are of international standards. The efforts put in at these venues has been great. I think that we have projected a great image of Chile and that’s what makes me happy. We want to leave a legacy of infrastructure, to make it inclusive. People who would not go to the stadium, young people and whole families who can enjoy the game.

The fact that Chile were eliminated probably did affect us but I think that the spirit maintained itself. I was at the game between Nigeria and Mexico, watching that game with more than 21,000 people was remarkable. That shows how much people love football, I saw whole families together watching the game. We have to continue to support our team, we will have a future Alexis Sanchez who will be watching those dressed in the red shirt.

The support of the state was very important. To have 24 delegations here is an impressive effort with vast distances between venues as well we have managed to make this happen. Without the support of the state we would not have been able to.