With the start of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 just a matter of hours away, Santiago’s Hotel Grand Hyatt provided the setting for Friday’s Chile 2015 Local Organising Committee (LOC) round table, which was followed by a round table covered by the host nation’s leading TV stations.
Taking part in the event were Anthony James, the acting chairman of the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, LOC Chairman Cristian Varela and FIFA Event Manager Jaime Yarza, who spoke with representatives from Televisión Nacional de Chile (TVN), Canal 13 and Mega.
“I would first of all like to welcome everyone,” said James by way of introduction. “This has been an amazing year for Chilean football, with the national team earning a place at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 by virtue of winning the Copa America here. We hope that this FIFA U-17 World Cup will be another landmark in the country’s history,” he added before remembering the victims of the earthquake that shook Chile in September and offering a message of hope.
In then taking his turn to speak, Varela said: “This is the fourth FIFA World Cup competition to be organised by Chile, a privilege it shares with Japan and Mexico and one that speaks volumes of the organisational capabilities of the Chilean people. We are almost ready for the start of the tournament, and the good news is that the matches at Talca and Puerto Montt have all sold out. I hope the same happens at the other venues. We are convinced that this will be, as the slogan says, a party on the pitch.”
Yarza then raised a key issue related to the tournament: the development of youth football: “We at FIFA have a very important legacy programme in place for Chile. Working in conjunction with the Chilean Football Association, the Development Department is organising a series of festivals to encourage youngsters to take up the game or just have fun, youngsters who have never had the chance to take part in an event like this before.”
He added: “In addition, we are also laying on training courses for youth coaches across the continent, which will sow the seeds for tomorrow. The aim is to give them the skills to educate and coach young people. This is a legacy not just for Chile but for the region as a whole.”
Fun for all the family
One of the first topics that came up for discussion was the number of spectators expected at the tournament’s 52 matches, some of which will be played at stadiums with large capacities. “We have set ourselves the goal of exceeding attendance figures at previous competitions, which were around the 80 per cent mark, and I think we’re very close to achieving that,” said Yarza.
He then added: “It’s not just a question of filling stadiums but of the people we fill them with. We and the LOC are striving to attract young boys and girls and families to the games. We want this to be a people’s party, and if we manage to get those kind of fans to come along, it will have been a success, regardless of whether we end up a couple of percentage points above or below stadium capacity.”
Varela also gave his views on the subject. After highlighting the attractions of the opening day, among them the presence of Chile and defending champions Nigeria at Santiago’s legendary Estadio Nacional, he spoke of the considerable efforts that have been made in promoting the event. “Though the Copa America raised the bar very high, we have done everything we can to take top-quality football to places it doesn’t normally reach. I think the work that’s been carried out with the clubs in the host cities, in addition to the marketing initiatives, has created the kind of atmosphere that will encourage people to turn up in numbers.”
When asked about the preparations made for the competition in terms of safety, Varela was unequivocal in his reply: “We know that we’re looking to attract people who wouldn’t normally go to football stadiums, which is a great opportunity. With that in mind, we’re working with the local authorities in each host city and with the neighbouring communities to ensure that everything is ready.
“We are also aiming to get people in each city to identify with the teams playing there, to find out something about the history behind them and to cheer them on. We want people to come along at their leisure and enjoy the show," he concluded.